Mark Busalacchi was relieved when history didn't repeat itself.
The second-year Waukesha West girls basketball coach can vividly recall the halfcourt shot by Mukwonago's Marissa Landry last season, a banked-in heave at the buzzer that gave the Indians a 1-point victory when the Wolverines played at MHS. Mukwonago edged West by one game in the final standings.
"As soon as the shot went up, I was thinking, 'It can't happen twice,'" Busalacchi said.
He was referring to a contested 3-pointer by Mukwonago's Megan Schallock at the buzzer, one that didn't fall and helped West escape with a 48-45 victory. Kariss Keller deflected the inbound, creating a sense of chaos that made the final shot tougher when Mukwonago inbounded under its own basket with nine seconds to play.
That the Indians even had a look was cause for consternation after West committed a turnover on the preceding inbound — though a collision did not merit a whistle, as it could have — and gave Mukwonago one last chance when it recovered the ball and called timeout.
"I thought we had a good play called," Mukwonago coach Rick Kolinske said. "The inbound pass got deflected and threw the whole play off, and I didn't have another timeout to try again. We got a good look at it at the end, but it was one of those threes that didn't fall for us."
Mukwonago shots just three of 19 from distance. Katy Walz scored a team-high 15 points, including three of four from the free-throw line in the final seconds to give West a late 5-point edge. Alexis McKeever of Mukwonago hauled in an air ball by MHS standout Bre Cera (team-high 11 points) and put it in to make it a 3-point game, and Mukwonago ultimately came up with the ensuing inbound.
"I even thought Bre got a little tired; she was working on Dani (Rhodes, 11 points) the whole game, which isn't fun for anybody," Busalacchi said. "That air ball wasn't a surprise, but it just went right to them."
It looked like a stroke of luck similar to last year's crazy finish, when Walz also hit a pair of free throws to put her team up by 2 points before the Landry buzzer beater.
"Last year, I was put in a similar position, so I was pretty happy (I could come through again)," Walz said. "We started working together, getting people open better. We did a better job helping on defense. It all just kind of came together."
The win helped West (10-2, 5-1 in Classic 8 play) shake off a nonconference loss to New Berlin West earlier in the week.
"We haven't been in a ton of tight ones," Busalacchi said. "New Berlin West was the first close one we've been in since our first game of the year against Riverside. The New Berlin West game we just gave away. We were up 11. Other than that, we hadn't seen adversity. We learned a little bit from that and just held on (tonight)."
Waukesha West headed into a meeting with Kettle Moraine (9-2, 5-1) on Wednesday, with the winner staying tied with Arrowhead for first in the Classic 8.
Cowser lifts boys
Though the girls game came down to the wire, the boys were determined to prevent any sort of drama when they hit the floor moments after the finish of the girls game in the doubleheader at Mukwonago.
Earnest Cowser scored 16 points in the first half, and he was a key part of an 18-0 run that helped the Wolverines take a 59-37 win and move into sole possession of first place in the Classic 8 at 6-1 (11-2 overall), at least for the moment. The West boys were also scheduled to play Kettle Moraine (11-2, 5-2) on Wednesday.
"Earnest is a very good player," West boys coach Dave Schultz said. "That first half, in particular, he got it going, and he's very good in a lot of different areas. He controlled the action very well."
Waukesha West punished Mukwonago — normally a superb rebounding team — on the offensive glass. The Indians were missing top returning scorer and rebounder Dominic Cizauskas, who was serving a multigame suspension.
"Part of that was our defense and part of that was because our (shooting) percentage was low, so there were a lot of opportunities to rebound," Schultz admitted. "For a couple spurts there, we were really able to control the defensive glass."
As the lead expanded, sophomore guard Corian Davis flashed his quickness en route to 11 points. It wasn't about the points to Cowser, however.
"We're going to have to play defense if we want to be in the upper echelon," he said. "We got tired of seeing ourselves doing bad things on film. There's two sides of the ball, defense and offense. Offense wins games and sells tickets, but defense wins championships."
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