Being fully aware of what West Allis Central is capable of when it gets on a run, Brookfield East boys basketball coach Andy Farley tried to limit the Bulldogs’ opportunities in a WIAA Division 1 regional game on Friday night.
Farley took a page from the coaching book of University of North Carolina legend Dean Smith and used the four-corners frequently to hold the ball and look for only the best of shots.
“They’re obviously a quality basketball team,” Farley said. “We were just attempting to keep them on defense more than on offense; nothing complicated.”
The tactic worked – for a while.
Eventually, though, Central was able to increase the pace more to its liking and pulled steadily away to a 57-43 victory.
The third seed Bulldogs improved to 18-4 on the season with their ninth straight victory. They earned a spot in a regional championship game 6 p.m. Saturday at Milwaukee Vincent (17-6), which barely survived Central’s Greater Metro Conference rival, Marquette, by a 54-53 count on Friday.
Guard Jarvis Garrett got the Bulldogs started against East with seven quick points, with a basket off a steal, a 3-point field goal and a layup for a 9-3 lead.
Guard Ryan McBride netted a 3-pointer for East, but a putback by forward Ezekiel Martin and a basket by forward Tony Helm from a Garrett assist made it 15-7 after one quarter.
East slowed the pace even more in the second period, and the move paid off for the Spartans. McBride hit another 3-pointer and East drew a number of fouls on drives to the basket, hitting six free throws to come within 17-16 late in the period.
Central, though, answered with a crucial 8-1 run to close the half at 25-17. Guard Jaquan Carson nailed a 3-pointer from the wing, forward Najeal McMillian scored a basket and Carson made three free throws after being fouled shooting a 3-pointer with just one second left.
“I thought that five-point run at the end of the first half was really critical,” Farley said. “It was a 17-16 game, and to go in the half down eight….that was a big run for them.”
The first half was played at a slow pace, as shown by both teams’ field-goal shooting. East shot just nine times and hit three, while Central was 10-for-17.
Central coach David Mlachnik said his team could handle East’s deliberate pace.
“We were sitting in our 3-2 (zone) defense, so they extended it out, which I was fine with, and we were looking for different things,” Mlachnik said. “It was a little slow pace at the beginning, but we got it going in the second half.”
Forward Tonnie Collier tallied a couple of inside baskets and Garrett drove for a 3-point play as Central opened it to 32-19. Guard/forward Brian Smith tallied six points for the Spartans, but the Bulldogs were still up 37-25 after three periods.
“Give them credit; they still were able to speed the pace up, and they were able to play ahead,” Farley said. “It (the four-corners) always works more when you’re ahead. We just were never able to get to that point.”
Central went to work on the boards, coming up with several putbacks, and Collier added six more points, including a dunk, as the Bulldogs surged ahead 47-29 midway through the fourth.
“Playoff games are usually a grind,” Mlachnik said. “You’ve got to figure it out, and we did in that second half.”
Collier led Central with 13 points, including 11 in the second half, while Garrett tallied 12 points and Darvell Brown and Carson eight apiece. For East, McBride scored 14 points and Smith 12.
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