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Cheese melt Edgewood
Monroe junior Max Lange goes up for a layup in the first half of Thursdays win over Madison Edgewood. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - When 6-foot, 6-inch junior Kade King threw down a two-handed dunk in the second half, the play was a thunderous reminder that the Cheesemakers had come to play.

King scored a game-high 25 points, grabbed nine rebounds, had two blocks and two steals to power Monroe to a 79-64 win over Madison Edgewood Thursday. With the win, Monroe (5-5, 3-2 Badger South) takes over sole possession of third place in the conference.

"I really feel like it (dunk) motivated us," King said of his first dunk this season. "It was two points. It was fun. I think it got our energy up. We played two halves tonight. We played a complete game against one of the better teams. This is big for us. You always want to get a big win in the conference."

King had plenty of help. Monroe senior Brayden Zettle added 17 points and senior Jonah Tostrud chipped in 13.

It was a game to forget for Madison Edgewood senior Mandela Deang, who entered the game averaging 18 points per game. Monroe senior David Keegan and the Cheesemakers' defense bottle up Deang, limiting him to just 5 points on 2-for-9 shooting. Deang picked up his fourth foul with 9 minutes, 41 seconds left in the second half and had to play the rest of the game less aggressive than usual.

"Coaches lost a lot of sleep after the Dodgeville game thinking how we could stop teams' best players," Monroe assistant coach Jake Grinnell said. "That is the best defensive game David has played in his career. (Deang) is a top-five player in our league and was all-conference last year. (Keegan) frustrated to the point where (Deang) is committing offensive fouls - it's a credit to Keegan. That was the X-factor. He held him 13 under his average and we won by 15."

After King's had a 3-point play, he scored again down low over Deang to give the Cheesemakers their largest lead of 19 points, 46-27 with 15:39 left in the second half. The Cheesemakers made 8 of 8 free throws in the final 4 minutes to preserve the victory.

"We spend a lot of time in practice shooting free throws," Grinnell said. "We run them hard and they are huffing and puffing when they shoot them. That is the kind of free throw shooting I know they can have. It's a testament to their focus. When games are tight, to be able to knock down the free ones is huge."

After struggling with their shooting in a 64-62 loss to Dodgeville Tuesday, the Cheesemakers rebounded and shot 52.9 percent against the Crusaders Thursday (27 of 51). Monroe senior Hunter Ward added 8 points and junior Dagon Rach hit two 3-pointers in the second half to finish with 6. Keegan also chipped in 6.

"It was good to have everyone contribute too," Zettle said. "(Ivory) Selmon and Dagon both hit big shots for us. We just have to continue to play and work hard every game and practice. Now, we have to put together two good games in a row."

Early on, the game had the makings of one in which Monroe would roll. The Cheesemakers jumped out to an 8-3 lead on Zettle's first 3-pointer. When the Crusaders attempted to press, Monroe junior Max Lange and Keegan each got layups against the pressure defense. Keegan knocked down a jumper to give the Cheesemakers a 23-13 lead with 7:12 left in the first half. Monroe shot a healthy 58.3 percent in the first half (14 of 26) and outrebounded the Crusaders 17-10. Edgewood went through a cold spell and shot 30.7 percent in the first half (8 of 26).

Edgewood junior Michael Meriggioli scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half. Once the Cheesemakers took a 19-point lead, Edgewood senior Braydon Murphy drilled a 3-pointer to cut it to 16. Murphy hit four 3-pointers and scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half.

King had a 3-point play and then had his thundering dunk to give the Cheesemakers a 58-42 advantage with 8:48 to go. Murphy knocked down a 3-pointer to slice the score to 60-50. That's as close as the Crusaders would get. Monroe answered with 3-point plays by Tostrud and Zettle to make it 68-53 with 5:20 to go.

"We passed up a good shot to get a great shot," Grinnell said. "I thought we were unselfish. I think we did a good job against their pressure. We beat guys off the dribble and got to the rim. We did a good job of getting to the rim, drawing fouls and not settling for midrange jump shots or 3-pointers."