The Wauwatosa West girls basketball team came to Tosa East knowing that it had the better of its crosstown rivals for quite some time, but on Saturday evening, they had no answer for the Red Raider's senior captain Katie Salmon, who scored a career- high 40 points in East's 57-50 win.
The win snapped a seven-game losing streak to Tosa West, as the last time the Red Raiders beat their crosstown rivals was Dec. 5, 2006, a 48-37 win at West.
On Saturday, West scored the first points of the game on a 3-pointer from Ashley Lindstrom, but Salmon responded with a three-point play of her own, sinking a free-throw after being fouled while scoring. Salmon scored the first 15 points of the game for East, which led 33-19 at halftime.
Salmon felt comfortable driving up the middle, and continued to do so throughout the game.
'I felt like it was just there and I was finishing well in the first half so it was working,' she said.
'First half went very well,' East coach Rob Hamill said. 'We did a lot of things we wanted to, calls went our way. On some of the drives, Salmon up the middle, we had a lot of opportunity up the middle, we kept attacking, they saw it.'
It didn't surprise Tosa West.
'We knew what she was going to do,' West coach Ashley Imperiale said of Salmon, 'and we didn't exactly execute very well stopping her, but kudos to her, she finished some tough shots.'
The Trojans started to pull a little closer in the third quarter.
Abbey Jones, who had 12 points, opened the scoring for West with a basket. With the Trojans trailing 40-23 about midway through the quarter, Trojan senior Elise Ditscheit made a 3-pointer, giving the Trojans some needed momentum.
Shortly thereafter, West's Amani Pettiford blocked a Raiders' pass right to a teammate and Justice Hawkins made 1-of-2 free-throws on that possession. The Trojans continued to eat away at East's lead into the fourth quarter.
The closest they came was 49-47 after Ditscheit stole a Raiders' pass and converted the turnover into two points at the other end. East maintained the lead by converting five of their final seven free-throws, in contrast to the Trojans, who scored just 5-of-18 free-throws all night.
'We're a pretty average free-throw shooting team,' Imperiale said. 'I've never seen us miss this many; we missed 10 in the fourth quarter alone. That's hard when the clock's stopped and you have a chance to score. The good thing is we've been on a role of playing pretty well and it's little things.
'We didn't really do anything bad. It's a good situation to be in a close game like this around tournament time because we've got to get used to calling timeouts, drawing up plays, being able to execute, so in the grand scheme of things, I'm glad we had a tight game, just for that learning experience that will help us into the playoffs.'
Lindstrom scored 19 points for the Trojans, with Jones scoring 12 and Ditscheit scoring 10. Salmon finished the game for East with one three-pointer and 14 two-point field goals, most of which came from driving straight to the basket. She also made 11 of her 18 free throws.
'I should have done better,' Salmon said. 'I haven't been very happy with my free-throw shooting lately.'
She was, however, happy with the win.
'I don't think we've beat them in like seven years,' Salmon said. 'We've never beat them. It's just a huge game and I think it's a good confidence builder. They're a good team so I think it's huge for us.'
Hamill agreed with his star's assessment.
'What we said was each quarter was going to be a war, or a battle,' Hamill said. 'We had to win the majority of the quarters. Kind of evened out there in the second half. Some of the calls didn't go our way in the second half, but our kids maintained their composure.
'Early in the year we really struggled learning to play with the lead. We've gotten better at that as the season's gone on. It's really encouraging. I really couldn't be happier with the kids. It's been a long time (beating West). I don't remember when we beat Tosa West last. It's been a while. They've kind of owned us for a while, so the kids deserve it.'