Sussex - Junior guard Brady Ellingson knows the history of the Greater Metro Conference and he knows the history between his Sussex Hamilton Chargers and the Wauwatosa East Red Raiders.
The Chargers made it known Friday night in Sussex that the time is now for a changing of the guard in the Greater Metro basketball landscape. Behind a massive fourth quarter from Ellingson, Sussex Hamilton delivered a 60-46 victory over the Red Raiders in a highly important contest between two conference favorites.
Ellingson scored 10 of his game-high 23 points in the last quarter to give Sussex Hamilton just its third win over the Red Raiders in the last 20 regular season meetings.
"We beat them last year, but previous to that, I don't think we beat them for like the past 10 years," Ellingson said. "It's always good to beat them and it was just a great game overall.
"A great team effort"
Wauwatosa East has won at least a share of the conference title five times in the last decade but has not done so since 2008. Forgive the Chargers if they don't have much sympathy for Tosa East on that second note; the last conference title for basketball listed on the Hamilton banner is 1979. Despite it being so early in the season, a win over a perennial conference favorite to extend an undefeated start to the year (6-0) has the Chargers faithful buzzing.
"We're trying to stay level headed because we know there are teams in this conference that can beat us on any given night," Ellingson said. "We always have to come out and give it our all.
"We have a core group of guys that have been sticking together since fifth grade, and we are used to winning, so hopefully we can continue to do that."
The first quarter was a nip and tuck battle between two teams clearly prepared for a close fight. Tosa East opened with a zone defense that initially slowed the Chargers attack but a pair of 3-pointers from junior Austin Kendziorski forced a change of plans for the Red Raiders on defense.
Tosa East leading scorer Nate Moore scored eight points in the first frame to pace the Red Raiders. His jump shooting pushed the Red Raiders to a 17-13 lead after the first quarter, and Tosa East seemed in control for much of the first half. Meanwhile, Ellingson didn't take a shot until over five minutes into the game and netted just one basket in the opening quarter.
"In the first half, we didn't shoot well; we settled for jump shots," Hamilton coach Andy Cerroni said. "They weren't bad shots, but they weren't going in."
During a four minute segment bridging the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second, senior Derrick Hunt scored a layup and a pair of free throws, contributing to a six point Tosa East run. That stretch pushed the Red Raiders lead to nine points midway through the second quarter, when the sharpshooting Ellingson finally found his range.
"At the half, we felt pretty good being down only by five," Cerroni said. "In the second half, we made them work more on defense by swinging the ball, and we were able to get to the rim more consistently."
Ellingson came into Friday's game averaging 23 points per game and started his real push to that mark late in the first half. After connecting on a 3-pointer to cut Tosa East's largest lead down to six, Ellingson scored the final basket of the half on another shot from distance, bringing the Chargers to within five points at the break.
Momentum from the second quarter and a scoring surge by senior forward Tony Gumina helped the Chargers storm into the lead by the end of the third frame. Gumina scored on a series of aggressive plays around the basket, facilitating a 12-2 run for Sussex Hamilton, which left them up three going into the last quarter. An emphatic dunk to close out the Chargers offensive output gave Gumina 21 points on the night and made the home crowd go crazy.
Latt nets milestone
Mackenzie Latt has developed a number of moves in her repertoire, but when one historic basket was all that separated her from a school record, it was back to old reliable.
"It was that drop step to the middle of a right-side block," coach Dan Carey said. "Tristen Hayes gave her a great pass, and she did the rest."
Facing Wauwatosa East on Friday, Latt's basket allowed her to eclipse the school record for scoring. She finished the night with 18 points in the 69-16 win, bringing her career total to 830, surpassing the old mark of 821 held by Christa Goetz since 1991.
It was part of a particularly efficient performance, as Latt shot 11 of 12 from the field. That's been the standard thus far for the 6-1 junior, whose team has started the season 7-0 and ranked No. 2 in the state coaches poll heading into Tuesday's battle with Menomonee Falls.
"She's shooting 82 percent this year; I couldn't believe it (when I did the math)," Carey said. "I had my wife guessing at the percentage, and she was guessing upper 40s, lower 50s. No matter who you're playing, that percentage is remarkable."
After scoring the decisive basket, the Hamilton parents stood, each holding a letter that spelled out "Congratulations, Mac."
"Everyone stood and cheered; it was really a neat moment," Carey said.
Latt has been the biggest component of a revolution for the Chargers program. She helped the Chargers win the first conference title in program history last season, pulling it off with an overtime win over Divine Savior Holy Angels on the final game of the season. Latt scored a career-high 31 points that night.
Goetz scored 29 points, a school record at the time, to cap her career in 1991 when the team lost in double overtime to Grafton in the sectional final, 67-63. That team finished 16-9.
Some significant tests loom for the Chargers. The squad will meet one of the top teams in Division 2, Beaver Dam, in the Ashwaubenon Tournament on Dec. 28. Battles with Brookfield Central and Divine Savior Holy Angels will happen seven days apart Jan. 11 and Jan. 18. DSHA, with reigning Greater Metro Conference Player of the Year in sophomore Arike Ogunbowale leading the way, meets Hamilton on the last day of the season once again.
The Chargers have not allowed more than 20 points in any of their three conference games this year, including the win over Tosa East and a 58-20 win over Brookfield East on Dec. 11.
"I thought our transition game was really good, with guards making good decisions," Carey said. "Between Taylor (Klug) and Hannah (Menzia), we're getting good production from our point guard position. That's really important in high-school ball. They're playing at a really high level right now, both of them."
With only 10 healthy bodies, every Chargers player available contributed against Tosa East. Jenny Shernell had 11 points.
Wrestlers grab silver
Hamilton's wrestling team finished sixth among 13 teams at the Battle on the Fox hosted by Appleton West, with four wrestlers procuring their first varsity victories in the process.
Chris Lutzen, Luke Johnson, Ben Sciortino and Grant Gorski all obtained their first victories.
Several wrestlers took second place, including Vince Pascale (106 pounds), Brett Neverman (120), Hunter Lau (126), Ryan Hernandez (145) and Nick Knoebel (152).
Neverman won three decision victories before falling to David Granatelli of Appleton North (15-3) in the title round.
Lau's only loss came in the championship match against Nick Diny of Wausau East, who improved to 15-0 on the year with a 7-2 decision.
Hernandez also reached the title match and fell to Tyler Turriff of De Pere in a tech fall, with a 3-2 decision win in the semifinal helping Hernandez reach the final step.
Knoebel improved to 15-2 with three pins and a decision victory, ultimately falling in a tight 5-4 battle to Nate Rynish of Hortonville (8-4). Knoebel notched his 100th career varsity win during the tournament.
The Chargers fell to West Allis Central in a Greater Metro Conference dual Dec. 13, 44-15. Neverman, Lau, Knoebel and Tony Gardipee won their matches.
"It was a tough loss considering we lost three matches in overtime," coach Doug Pulvermacher said.
Hamilton 60, Wauwatosa East 46
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