The Beloit Turner boys basketball team was staring down the barrel of another lopsided loss to recent nemesis East Troy on Thursday night.
With the East Troy fans at full throat and Turner’s deficit at 11, something had to give.
Turner’s mad run at the 17-1 Trojans ultimately ended in a 59-51 Rock Valley Conference defeat, but Turner’s strong will could prove to be a long-term asset when the going inevitably gets tough in March.
Turner cut the East Troy lead to 52-50 on a basket by Dai’Vontrelle Strong with 1:44 to play, but strong free-throw shooting by AJ Vukovich down the stretch proved too much to overcome.
Still, it appeared as though the contest would be a carbon copy of when the two teams met in Beloit back on Dec. 20. In that game, Turner trailed just 35-32 at halftime before Vukovich exploded in the second half, leading East Troy to a runaway 84-61 win.
This time, Turner trailed 29-24 at the break. East Troy led 36-24 before Turner mounted a comeback and hung around until the end.
“It’s not the result we wanted, but I’m really happy with the effort our kids gave,” Turner coach Ken Watkins said.
“They gave it their best shot and showed some toughness in coming back, but we just couldn’t get over the hump.”
The outcome essentially clinched the Rock Valley Conference for East Troy, who moved to 14-0 while Turner fell to 12-2 in league play.
One number really stood out to Watkins following the game.
“We went 8-for-19 at the free-throw line, and you just can’t do that against a team like East Troy,” he said. “They went 22-for-32, but they hit the ones they needed down the stretch.”
Vukovich led East Troy with 23 points, leaving him seven shy of 2,000 in his decorated career. Ryan Nixon added 15 points, while Quinten Lottig hit four 3-pointers en route to 14 points.
“That’s the thing about that team, it’s not just Vukovich,” Turner guard Jordan Majeed said. “They’ve got a lot of good players, and they play really smart. They aren’t going to just give you anything. That kind of play will let them go a long way.”
The Trojans were led by Strong’s 15 points, while DJ Wash added 14 and Majeed finished with 12.
Although the final outcome wasn’t what Wash wanted, he said the team could take some aspects of the game moving forward.
“I think it showed how much we’ve grown up since the first time we played them,” Wash said. “We made that run, and we just didn’t make enough free throws to finish it. It shows that’s something we need to work on.”
Turner will be back in action Tuesday when they host winless Clinton.
EAST TROY 59, TURNER 51
Turner (51)—Wash 4-4-14, Strong 6-3-15, Majeed 5-1-12, Draeving 2-0-5, Carter 2-0-5. Totals: 19-8-51.
East Troy (59)—Nixon 4-7-15, Rosin 1-2-4, Lottig 4-2-14, Vukovich 6-11-23, Cummings 1-0-2. Totals: 16-22-59.
Beloit Turner 24 27—51
East Troy 29 30—59
3-point goals—T 5 (Wash 2, Majeed, Carter, Draeving), ET 5 (Lottig 4, Cummings). Free throws missed—T 11, ET 10. Total fouls—T 20, ET 18.