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Crusaders escape Monroe
Monroe junior Jonah Tostrud takes a shot. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - Brian Bassett has preached all season about finding ways to finish out games.

The latest version for the Monroe High School boys basketball team came in a 49-40 loss to Madison Edgewood on Friday.

Bassett, the Monroe coach, understands the Cheesemakers missed opportunities to take the lead on the Crusaders in the final 2 minutes. With the Crusaders leading the Cheesemakers 41-40 late in the second half, both senior Tyler Elmer and Alex Tordoff missed contested layups. The Cheesemakers (9-11, 4-7 Badger South) were 0-for-7 shooting in the final 1 minute, 53 seconds.

Edgewood (16-5, 9-2) made 8 of 10 free throws in the final 1:04 to seal the win and stay one game behind Stoughton in the race for the conference championship.

"I just told the guys to pretend that we are 0-for-life," Bassett said. "We haven't won many close games with this group. From here on out, we are swinging for the fences. I think we were attacking. It just doesn't seem like we get the fouls for whatever reason."

Monroe junior Brayden Zettle scored a game-high 18 points and had five rebounds. Zettle and senior Carter Sawdey, who scored eight of his 10 points in the second half were instrumental in rallying the Cheesemakers from a nine-point deficit midway through the second half.

"They are definitely the right guys with the ball," Zettle said of Tordoff and Elmer taking shots late on drives to the basket. "They always seem to be clutch. We just have to work on finishing games. We know we can score. Defensively, we played really good. Offensively, a few of our shots were just not falling. That will come. If we keep playing defense the way we have been than we will be fine."

The Cheesemakers jumped out to an 8-4 lead on two layups by Tordoff, a Sawdey jumper and a Zettle layup.

The Cheesemakers then went through about a 5-minute scoreless drought. Madison Edgewood junior Mandela Deang scored eight points early on and helped the Crusaders take a 13-8 lead. Zettle then knocked down a jumper and buried a 3-pointer to tie the game at 15.

Despite shooting 24.1 percent (7 of 29) in the first half, the Cheesemakers trailed the Crusaders by just one point at the half, 16-15.

Edgewood senior Alex Arians, a South Dakota State recruit, was 1 of 6 shooting in the first half and scored just three points. He heated up in the second half, scoring 13 of his 16 points in the second half and finished 5-for-13 shooting.

"I thought our defense and communication was the best its been all year," Bassett said.

Zettle drilled a jumper and Elmer scored on a layup early in the second half to help the Cheesemakers take a short-lived 23-18 lead. The Crusaders answered with a 15-0 run. The surge was sparked by senior Peyton Bondoc's two 3-pointers and a three-point play by Deang that helped the Crusaders build a 31-23 lead.

The Cheesemakers didn't go away without a battle. Monroe junior David Keegan scored on a layup to tie the game at 33 with 5:29 left. Zettle converted a three-point play with 3:51 to go to cut the Crusaders' lead to 37-36. Zettle then drilled a jumper with 3:35 to go to tie the game at 38. Arians responded by knocking down his only 3-pointer of the game that gave the Crusaders a 41-38 lead.

The Cheesemakers got within one point but couldn't claw their way to the lead in the final 2 minutes.

Tordoff was 3-for-12 shooting and chipped in eight points and seven rebounds.

Bassett found other positives in the game.

"I thought we did a good job of holding a really good rebounding team like Edgewood to just one shot," he said. "We did a good job of boxing out and rebounding. It's just one of those games where we needed to get some more shots to fall."