Dominican fought off a late comeback attempt by Brookfield Academy, closing the game on a 16-5 scoring run to beat the Blue Knights, 61-50, in a WIAA Division 3 regional semifinal.
“It’s just survive this time of the year,” Dominican coach Jim Gosz said. “Brookfield Academy made a good run. They’re a dangerous team. We executed very well. We took Brookfield Academy out of their game early on, and then they got the feel for it. I’m happy to survive.”
Trailing by as many as 18 points, Brookfield Academy battled back, going on a nearly 4-minute, 18-4 run to tie the game at 45-all with 5:52 left before Dominican put an end to the Blue Knights chances.
“They proved they can handle anything in life,” said Brookfield Academy coach Pat Clarey about his team. “So proud to stand with those guys. They never quit. The scoreboard shows they had more points than us, but I’m just proud with how we competed. It was two great teams going at it.”
In the final 5:07, the Knights (13-10) sank 8 of their 12 free throw attempts to avoid the upset against Brookfield Academy (15-9).
“The story of our season has been making free throws and missing them,” Gosz said. “In the games we struggle, we missed them. Rebounds and free throws get you to the next level.”
Dominican, which has won the last five Division 4 state titles, extended its win streak to four games, including winning eight of its last nine games.
With the win, No. 3-seeded Dominican will look to continue its momentum in the Division 3 regional final, when the Knights host No. 7-seeded Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education (13-11) at home March 4.
Obama SCTE upset No. 2-seeded Racine St. Catherine’s in the regional semifinal on March 3, winning 45-42.
“It’s going to be a difficult opponent,” said Gosz about Obama SCTE. “Those are some tough kids. They don’t care if they are playing the (Milwaukee) Bucks or Dominican. They are going to come at you and bring it.”
The Knights started the game energized, grabbing the momentum early to take a 11-0 lead at the 13:15 mark in the first half.
Brookfield Academy was down by as many as 16 points in the first half but cut Dominican’s lead to 23-14 with 31 seconds remaining until halftime. But, Dominican’s Ralen Brown sank two free throws in the final seconds of the first half to give the Knights a 25-14 halftime lead.
It appeared early in the second half that the Knights were going to cruise to victory, holding a 39-22 lead with 11:39 remaining after an easy layup by freshman forward Alex Antetokounmpo.
Brookfield Academy didn’t quit, trading baskets with Dominican, before going on just over a 2-minute, 14-1 scoring run to pull within 1 point after back-to-back 3-pointers by Aiden Clarey with 7:41 left.
“When you play a Jim Gosz team, they aren’t going to beat themselves,” Pat Clarey said. “You have to go one notch above them in intensity. I thought we did that, which allowed us to come back.”
Aiden Calrey came up big for the Blue Knights again nearly 2 minutes later, when he scored a layup, tying the game at 45-all.
From there, Dominican went on a scoring run of its own to seal the win and advance in the playoffs.
“We kept our composure,” Gosz said. “It’s a game of runs. We held off their run, and we made ours.”
Despite the loss, Brookfield Academy’s Alex Setzer had a big night in his final high school game, recording a double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds.
“He’s our aircraft carrier,” said Clarey about Setzer. “He’s been with me four years. I wish we could’ve sent him out as a senior with a sectional championship going to Madison. That kid has a bright future.”
Averaging only 5.2 points per game, Jake Bennett stepped up for Dominican, scoring a game-high 19 points, including going 4-of-7 from 3-point range. Brown also finished with 12 points, and Gacoby Jones had 11 for the Knights.
“Jake (Bennett) has been a four-year varsity player,” Gosz said. “He’s calm, cool and collected. That’s what seniors are going to do at this time of the year.”