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Warriors win battle against Monroe
Times photo: Adam Krebs Monroes Bryan Tordoff defends Waunakees Beau Murray in the second half of Saturdays game. Murray scored a game-high 25 points for the Warriors.
WAUNAKEE - Pat Murphy's Cheesemakers pride themselves on fundamentals and defense. In Saturday's 66-53 loss to Waunakee in the Badger Conference Challenge, Monroe struggled to break the press and allowed the tall and athletic Warriors to have their way around the court.

"It's kind of frustrating. In practice, we go a lot of times seven defenders against five offensive players, so I was a little surprised we didn't handle the press better," said Murphy, Monroe's head coach. "Every coach here watching that is going to pick up on that. I hate to say this, too, but (Waunakee) probably out-toughed us in a lot of those possessions that mattered."

Waunakee (11-1, 5-1 Badger North), which boasts 13 players 6 feet, 1 inch or taller compared to Monroe's seven, put on a heavy press early and found its way to the basket easily in both half-court and transition offense.

"They are all not just really big, but they're strong too. We couldn't really match their size, but when we got it in the post we did some pretty good things," Monroe senior Kevin Frint said.

After jumping out to a 5-0 lead on an Alex Capesius 3-pointer and Michael Barrett jumper, the Cheesemakers (9-2, 5-1 Badger South) let the Warriors go on a 10-0 run and completely controlled the momentum. Monroe never again held a lead.

"It's hard to prepare for a team like Waunakee because of their athleticism.

"They're tough and there's a reason why they are the number one team in the Badger North," junior Bryan Tordoff said. "It was really frustrating. We didn't make smart decisions and we weren't tough enough. I'm sure we'll fix that this week in practice."

Playing two 16-minute halves instead of the traditional four 8-minute quarters, there were few breaks in play, which allowed Waunakee to pick up a 14-point lead late in the first, 27-13. By halftime, the Warriors led 35-24.

One of the disappointments in the first half was how few opportunities Monroe gave its tallest player, 6-foot, 7-inch Kevin Frint. Frint was finding his way around the post, grabbing rebounds and keeping the offensive attack alive. In the second half, Frint continued rebounding and scored seven of his 11 points, helping Monroe dig its way out of the hole.

"We definitely wanted to get the ball low more, but their press was giving us too much trouble. I myself had a bunch of turnovers. We just couldn't handle the pressure in the first half very well," Frint said.

Also in the second half, Murphy had his team ready to break the press, giving Barrett and Tordoff the clear to dribble through traffic up the court.

The Cheesemakers worked their way back into the game and made it a three-point contest, 41-38, after a pair of free throws by Michael Turek (six points) with 8:14 remaining.

But that was as close as Monroe would get.

"I was proud of how we battled and fought back. (Waunakee) was probably thinking the game was over and then we brought it back down to three points," Murphy said. "But there was just that three- to six-point lull in there for a couple of minutes that we just couldn't get any closer."

Waunakee burst into a 9-2 run to open the difference back to 10 points, thanks in part to five points from Beau Murray, which included an and-one opportunity. Monroe never recovered.

"They are tough enough and strong enough that if you hack them, they are going to make a three-point play out of it. I thought we had some chances too that we just didn't finish," Murphy said.

Murray finished with a game-high 25 points, including 13 in the second half, and was a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line. Tordoff led Monroe with 20 points and Barrett had 11.

"It's tough. When you don't do things right, you get beat," Tordoff said.

"Last year we had the toughest schedule we've probably ever had and I know that really helped us get to the state championship game. These games we're losing are against really good teams and it will just help prepare us even more."

Waunakee came into the game ranked 10th in the state in Division 1 in both the Associated Press and Coaches Poll. Monroe was ranked 10th in Division 2 in the AP Poll and 11th in the Poll.

Monroe travels to Elkhorn (6-6) Tuesday for a non-conference game.