EAST TROY, Wis. - The Beloit Turner basketball team was bound and determined not to let AJ Vukovich beat them Friday night.
The good news? Turner held the East Troy super sophomore to 10 points. The bad news? Vukovich's teammates did just enough to pull out a 41-34 victory in a WIAA Division 3 regional semifinal.
Turner, who led by five points with 12:44 remaining, struggled mightily on the offensive end down the stretch, as East Troy's length inside was bothersome. Going 2-for-10 at the free throw line didn't help matters, either.
Two of Turner's top three scorers, Steve Dillard and Sereno Ferone, failed to score. Leading scorer Dai`Vontrelle Strong exited the first half early with two fouls and scored all eight of his points in the second half.
Jordan Majeed led the Trojans with 10 points.
"To hold any team to around 40 points is pretty good," Dillard said. "Especially them. I think we did well. Our only problem was rebounding. They got some key boards that turned into easy buckets. We got out-hustled a couple of times. But, next season starts tomorrow and we'll be back strong."
With all-time leading scorer Alec Fruin graduated and prolific scorer Nacio Villarreal bailing on the team just days before the season began, Turner entered the year with plenty of question marks. DIllard was proud of the way his teammates responded.
"With Nacio, we thought we would get behind him and make our way into sectionals," Dillard said. "Then after the whole ordeal happened, it put me, 'D', and Sereno in a huge position to step up. I couldn't be more proud of 'D.' He came out and led the team in scoring. Sereno averaged double figures. Jordan really came on for us as the season went on. It was great."
Majeed said the team competed hard.
"Coach told us we battled, especially on defense, so I'm happy about that," Majeed said. "But it's hard to be really happy about anything after a loss like that. They had us scouted really well and played us perfectly on defense. We didn't have many open looks at the basket."
Turner grinded out a 15-14 halftime lead and kept the advantage until under eight minutes remained in the game. East Troy hit a couple of big three-pointers down the stretch, and after a Majeed bucket cut the East Troy lead to 32-29 with 2:02 left, Turner would score just five more points while East Troy made enough free throws to salt the game away.
Following its victory over Turner on Friday, East Troy defeated second-seeded Martin Luther 59-55 to capture the regional title. The Trojans will face top-seeded Martin Luther Thursday night at 7 p.m. in Fort Atkinson with a berth in the sectional finals on the line.