The familiar and frequent chant from the Madison East student section began on Madison La Follette’s very first possession Friday night:
“ ‘D’ up! ‘D’ up!”
Give the students credit. They understood the key factor toward a potential victory.
And the Purgolders boys basketball team knew it needed every ounce of defensive effort to contend with the Lancers’ potent offensive attack.
“We knew coming into the game we had to stop them on the break,” Madison East senior guard Earl Lewis said. “We had to slow them down.
“We had to do what we do best — we knew we had to play defense before everything else. It was all about defense.”
The Purgolders, facing a depleted roster and severe foul trouble, held off the Lancers 60-57 in a tense, foul-filled Big Eight Conference game played before a raucous, near-capacity crowd at La Follette.
After Chinedum Maduka made one of two free throws to give East a 59-57 lead with 12 seconds left, La Follette’s Nate Seward watched his shot on a drive to the basket rim out in the final seconds.
East sophomore Marcus Justice sank the second of two foul shots with 2 seconds remaining, extending the Purgolders’ lead to three points.
La Follette senior guard Donneil Gray’s three-quarter-court shot missed as time expired.
Lewis scored 10 of his 11 points in the second half and senior forward Justin Mielke contributed a career-high 11 points for Madison East (6-3 overall, 4-3 Big Eight).
“It keeps us in the hunt,” Madison East coach Matt Miota said. “It is a really big win for us.”
Gray sank four 3-pointers and had a game-high 21 points and sophomore guard Ben Probst made three 3-pointers and added 11 points for Madison La Follette (8-2, 6-2), which entered ranked seventh in Division 1 in the WisSports.net state coaches poll.
“We just couldn’t put the ball in,” Lancers coach Curtrel Robinson said. “They were shots we normally make. We struggled both halves to shoot the ball. … Give East credit. To be down two key players, I think they were focused to get the win here.
“They just grinded it out. They wanted it more than we did.”
The Lancers dropped out of first place and fell one game behind fourth-ranked Sun Prairie and ninth-ranked Madison Memorial in the Big Eight conference standings.
“We tried to not allow them to score more than 56,” Miota said about his team’s goal entering the game. “We just gave up a little more than that.
“Defense has got to become our identity. We have showed it the last couple games.”
The Purgolders, getting contributions from their bench, managed to pull out the win despite missing two key players — senior guard Datril Thompson (injury) and senior guard Davion Washington (illness) — and seeing three players foul out during the late stages of the game — senior guard Keshawn Justice, sophomore guard Keonte Jones and Lewis.
“I had faith in them,” Lewis said about his teammates who filled the void.
Santa Clara commit Keshawn Justice, who entered averaging 21 points but was limited to seven second-half points, fouled out on an offensive foul call that wiped out a basket that would have given East a five-point point lead with 2:18 remaining.
Gray then drilled a 3-pointer, tying the game at 53 with 2:03 left.
Lewis scored on a drive with 1:31 left, but Gray again tied the game on drive and was fouled with 1:20 to play.
Gray’s successful free throw, however, was negated by a lane violation.
Purgolders senior forward Nick Wilcox made a free throw with 1:09 remaining and sophomore guard Anthony Washington hit two foul shots, extending East’s lead to 58-55 with 52.5 seconds left.
Gray answered with a basket and was fouled, but missed the free throw with 43.9 seconds remaining.
Madison East 28 32 — 60
Madison La Follette 23 34 — 57
MADISON EAST — Justice 2 3-5 7, Lewis 4 4-5 13, Wilcox 1 1-4 3, Mielke 5 1-2 11, Maduka 2 1-2 5, Thompson 3 1-3 7, Washington 3 2-4 8, Jones 1 3-4 5, Justice 0 1-2 1. Totals 21 17-31 60.
MADISON LA FOLLETTE — Seward 1 2-2 4, Probst 4 0-0 11, West 2 3-5 8, Smith 0 1-2 1, Gray 8 1-3 21, Reeves Jr. 3 0-2 6, Cameron 1 0-0 2, Stewart 1 2-2 4. Totals 20 9-16 57.
3-point goals — ME 1 (Lewis 1), ML 8 (Gray 4, Probst 3, West 1). Total fouls — ME 24, ML 27. Fouled out — Justice, Seward, Lewis, Jones. Technical foul — Lewis, Smith.