East Troy High School’s A.J. Vukovich jumps for two in the March 3 regional semifinal against Turner. The Trojans are still in the hunt for the sectional title and take on Edgerton Saturday in the sectional final. (Eric Kramer photo)

Basketball team one game away from return trip to state tournament

By Dan Truttschel

Correspondent

Another challenging nonconference schedule has already paid dividends for the East Troy High School boys basketball team – and now the Trojans are one win away from their fourth trip to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 3 State Tournament.

The Trojans won the sectional semifinal against Martin Luther last night, 57-55, and will face Edgerton at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the sectional final in Milton. Edgerton took out Platteville last night, 65-56, in the other sectional semifinal.

Regional champs

East Troy earned a regional title last week with a 41-34 victory over Rock Valley Conference foe Beloit Turner in the semifinal, followed by a hard-fought 59-55 win over Racine St. Catherine’s in the final to improve to 19-5 overall.

“All our kids understand now that (making deep tournament runs) is what we’re all about,” East Troy coach Darryl Rayfield said. “That’s why we play tough games, to be ready to play. We’re already tournament tough when we go play.

“We’ve played teams that have really good quickness, are athletic and have good basketball players. We’re prepared for that.”

The third-seeded Trojans, ranked eighth in the final wissports.net poll, face top-seeded Greendale Martin Luther (21-3), ranked fourth, in a sectional semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday at Fort Atkinson. The winner faces either top-seeded Platteville (19-5) or second-seeded Edgerton (19-5) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Middleton for a berth in next week’s State Tournament.

Foul trouble, including a third in the first half to the Trojans’ leading scorer, A.J. Vukovich, along with untimely turnovers led to East Troy falling behind by eight points in the first half in the regional final.

Those two are never a good combination, especially against a solid squad like the Angels, Rayfield said.

“We got down eight because we didn’t take care of the basketball as well as we could have,” Rayfield said. “They have really good quickness and pressure in the half-court.”

Rayfield said two straight turnovers led to back-to-back three-point plays by St. Catherine’s, which turned a two-point deficit into eight in the blink of an eye.

The Trojans turned things around in the final 18 minutes.

East Troy outscored the Angels, 36-24, in the second half, as it committed just two turnovers the rest of the way and knocked down some timely 3-pointers.

Quinten Lottig got things started with a 3-pointer, followed by two more by Nick Bourdo that got the Trojans off and running.

“Those got us rolling,” Rayfield said. “We continued to play really good half-court defense (as well). Then we made eight straight free throws down the stretch.”

East Troy was 19-for-24 from the free-throw line for the game.

Vukovich led the way with 26 points, while Bourdo had 19.

A grind-out win

East Troy found itself in a grinder of a game in the regional semifinal, as Turner did its best to slow down the Trojans.

Turner led by a point at halftime, but East Troy enjoyed a 27-19 advantage in the second half to pull out the seven-point win. Turner trailed by just three points with 2:02 remaining, but East Troy scored nine of the final 14 points to close it out.

Michael Polakoski led the way with 11 points and six rebounds, followed by Vukovich with 10 points, eight rebounds and six blocks, Logan Mitchell with seven points and five rebounds and Bourdo with seven points, nine rebounds and four blocks.

 
 

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