Beloit Turner carries 16-game streak into sectionals

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Eric Schmoldt
Thursday, March 9, 2017

BELOIT--Alec Fruin and Nacio Villarreal draw most of the attention.

When two players combine to average more than 50 points per game, that will happen.

But to reach sectional play, it takes more than a pair of dynamic players. And Alec Fruin—The Gazette’s reigning area player of the year—makes sure to point that out.

“It’s just togetherness,” Fruin said this week as his team prepared for today’s 7 p.m. WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinal against Lake Mills at Fort Atkinson High. “Everybody, from our first guy to our last guy off our bench, everybody’s playing together and supporting each other.”

No other Trojans player averages more than six points per game.

But head coach Ken Watkins said his role players play vital roles that don’t show up on the score sheet.

Sereno Ferone averages 6.6 rebounds per game, good for second on the team behind Fruin’s 10.5. Junior Brandon Malkow, an offensive lineman receiving Division I football interest, gives Turner a presence in the middle. Ethan Burns provides a defensive spark. Jordan Majeed does a little bit of everything, including scoring 5.8 points per game.

“I think that Alec and Nacio realize we wouldn’t be here without them (their teammates),” Watkins said. “If it isn’t for Sereno’s offensive rebounds at the end of the game against East Troy, we don’t win that game. If it isn’t for Ethan Burns’ defense on Zach Mielke against Evansville, we don’t win that game. If it isn’t for Brandon Malkow guarding the other teams’ big man…

“You can go on and on.”

Turner will almost certainly need all hands on deck tonight to avenge one of its three regular-season losses.

The Trojans are 22-3 and lost back-to-back games Dec. 27 and 28 against Lake Mills and Lakeside Lutheran, respectively, at Lake Mills’ holiday tournament.

The loss to Lake Mills came by a score of 80-70, with Lake Mills making nine first-half 3-pointers. But Watkins points more to the Trojans’ nine or 10 missed layups as the biggest factor in the loss.

“We have to look at that game, because they really punched us in the mouth,” Watkins said when asked if his team is studying that loss or leaving it in the past. “They did a nice job with their run-and-jump to get the ball out of Alec’s hands and made us play a little faster than we were used to, and we missed a number of layups.

“So we had to go back and look at that and try to correct some things. Because if I’m them, it worked the first time, so why wouldn’t you try it again?”

The good news for Turner is that it hasn’t lost a single game since that holiday tournament, running off 16 straight victories after beating host Evansville 56-53 in a regional final Saturday night.

The most impressive aspect of that streak is the Trojans’ ability to win with different styles and pace. They’ve won games with their final point totals ending in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

“We know when we need to grind it out,” Fruin said. “Come playoff time, it’s going to be lower-scoring games.

“It’s just kind of what teams do against us. We take what the defense gives us. If it’s a slower pace, it’s a slower pace. If they want to get up and down, we’ll run with them, too.”

Whatever the pace tonight, the Trojans hope they’re playing Saturday night at Waunakee.

Right now, they’re two victories away from their first-ever trip to state.


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