By Murray Gleffe
GREEN BAY – If you thought the Green Bay East boys’ basketball team would be a middle or bottom-of-the-pack team in the Bay Conference, you might want to rethink your prediction.
Nine days after defeating Seymour, the Red Devils checked off another box in garnering an 80-65 Bay Conference victory Dec. 16 over Xavier at East High School.
The Hawks qualified for the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 2 State Tournament one year ago.
“We clicked on offense to start the game,” East Head Coach Rick Rosinski said. “We pushed the ball and finished in transition. We won the 50/50 battles on the boards. After we got a lead, the energy kept growing. A couple of (Xavier’s) guys have been out. I wanted to beat them with their full lineup.”
The Red Devils (5-0 overall, 2-0 Bay) were led by Vance Alexander and Ryan Sweeney, who each pumped in 18 points apiece.
Jalen Flowers chipped in 16, and Bill Felix rounded out the double-digit scorers with 15.
Leading 11-9, East turned the game into a track meet.
The Red Devils scored 25 out of the next 28 points to take a commanding 36-12 lead.
During the spurt, Tyler Boeder deflected passes on defense, Felix muscled his way past the much taller Alex Sherwood to score several baskets in and around the rim and Alexander controlled the tempo as a lead guard.
“(Boeder) is the only junior playing with seniors,” Rosinski said. “When (Alexander) was out with an injury, he started and contributed. Now, he’s accepted a role off the bench and hasn’t complained. He took a key charge tonight, and the bench exploded with enthusiasm.”
Xavier Head Coach Matt Klarner had to burn two timeouts during the East outburst to try and settle his squad down.
The Red Devils took a 45-25 lead into halftime.
With East still holding a 22-point margin early in the second half, the Hawks slowly started to chip away at the lead.
While Felix and Flowers were battling foul trouble, the pace of the game appeared to wear on the Red Devils with its short bench rotation.
Xavier’s Charlie Pfefferle and Carson Hehli began connecting on their perimeter shots, and the first-half looks that weren’t falling in the paint from Sherwood found the bottom of the net.
Within three minutes, after Hehli nailed a 3-pointer, East’s margin was trimmed to 59-48 with 8:34 remaining.
The Red Devils pushed the lead back up, but the Hawks had a second run in them to cut the margin to 64-57 with 4:38 left.
“I told them to settle down and play with a lead,” Rosinski said after Xavier made its two runs. “We ran our press break better and then got fouled down the stretch.”
On the next possession, Alexander scored on a reverse layup to bring the momentum back to an East squad that needed a hoop.
“Honestly, I tried to focus on my defense,” Alexander said. “I try to play my role every game. (Xavier) is a tall team. We had to do everything we could to grab rebounds. I was aggressive on the offensive end, and it paid off today.”
With the Hawks needing to be almost perfect down the stretch, they went cold from the field.
East scored eight of its final 10 points from the free-throw line, as it pulled away for the victory.
The Red Devils will step out of conference for their next four games.
They host Monona Grove and Oconto Falls before traveling to Antigo and Clintonville.