Sticking with the basics made all the difference for the Brookfield Central boys basketball team on Friday night.
Take smart shots and make them. Get in position to rebound. Concentrate on defense. Keep the turnovers to a minimum. And make those free throws.
The Lancers did all those things, especially in the second half, to pull away from a three-point halftime lead and take a 61-47 victory over Neenah in a WIAA Division 1 state semifinal at the Kohl Center.
“It wasn’t always pretty in the first half — we had some sloppy plays — but we were able to make enough free throws and shots in the second half to hold them off,” said Central coach Dan Wandrey, whose Lancers will take a 22-5 record into the championship game on Saturday night.
Central shot 18-for-34 from the field (52.9 percent) and made half of its 3-point attempts (7 of 14). They held a 34-20 rebound advantage. They held Neenah to 8-for-25 shooting from 3-point range and 33 percent field goal shooting overall, while committing only 10 fouls. And they committed only nine turnovers while shooting 18-for-22 from the line.
“At the end of the day, we didn’t make shots. … When you only shoot 30 percent, you’re going to struggle,” said Neenah coach Lee Rabas, whose team finished 19-8. “There were a lot of clean looks. We just didn’t make many.”
Still, it took a steady push in the second half for the Lancers to move into control. The leader of that push was Cole Nau, a 6-foot-3 senior guard who shot 7-for-9 from the field and totaled 21 points and eight rebounds.
“I knew I had to be aggressive, but I didn’t want to force anything,” said Nau, who also drew the assignment of defending Neenah scoring leader Max Klesmit.
Nau — spelled for a while by his brother, 6-1 sophomore guard Ben Nau — held Klesmit, a 24.5-point scorer, to 15 points on 5-for-17 shooting.
“We talked about making them work as much as we could to make them take contested shots,” Wandrey said. “We’ve become a pretty strong defensive team in the last month.”
Central also got 12 points from 6-6 sophomore forward David Joplin, 10 points from 6-1 sophomore guard Ben Nau and nine rebounds from 6-5 junior forward Malik Abdul-Wahid.
Neenah also got 10 points each from 5-11 senior guard Jake Hablewitz and 6-5 senior forward Logan Morrow. The Rockets committed only two turnovers.