Appleton East boys’ basketball coach John Mielke makes sure to stress to his players the importance of being a difference maker on both ends of the court.
His team rose to that challenge in the final seconds of the Patriots’ 38-37 victory over visiting Appleton West in a Fox Valley Association matchup on Friday.
Tyler Piehl’s three-point basket with just less than 10 seconds left gave East the lead and a subsequent charge taken by Ryan Pistone as West was attempting to answer on the other end of the court proved to be those game-changing plays that Mielke preaches about.
“We talked at halftime that somebody, both individually and as a team, has to step up and make some plays down the stretch,” Mielke said. “If you’re going to win games, you have to make plays on both ends of the floor and that epitomized this game, because players in this game have to play both offense and defense and they can be difference makers on both ends.
“A lot of times, we’ve fallen short in that area. We’ve lost some tight games this year.”
One of those games was against De Pere last week as the Patriots took the Redbirds to the limit before falling 47-45. Piehl also missed on a three-pointer shortly before his game winner against the Terrors.
“I think every player wants that last shot,” he said. “And I had a shot against De Pere last week that would have tied the game also and I missed that first one, but I just have to keep shooting I guess.”
Piehl led the Patriots (7-5, 5-4 FVA) with 14 points and had four three-pointers. The Patriots were patient on offense, consistently looking to make that extra pass and find the open shot against an active West defense.
West (7-5, 5-4), which was playing without key starter Austin Berlick, who has an arm injury, struggled to shake loose of the Patriots defense but did rally to tie the game at 32-32 on Jake Verhagen’s follow off a rebound midway through the fourth quarter.
After a conventional three-point play from Nathan Froiland gave East a 35-32 lead, West rattled off a 5-0 run, all on free throws from Troy Mielke.
The Terrors couldn’t hold the lead, however, as a kick-out pass from Turner Schmidt found Piehl for the winner in the closing seconds.
“It starts for us on defense,” Piehl said. “But the whole team thing, everyone working together for that shot and when you take that shot on offense, it’s the team shot, not a one-person shot. As a team you have to make the best play you can every time.”
Mielke had 13 points to lead Appleton West, which suffered its fourth loss in its last five games.
“It’s an Appleton-Appleton game,” West coach Brennan Hussey said. “It’s usually going to be tight and we just simply need to improve off of a tough loss. Tough losses test your resolve as a team and we need to respond as a team. And we will.”
Appleton West: Reader 3, Harmison 6, Verhagen 7, Nelson 2, Mielke 13, Lang 6. Totals: 12 9-13 37. Three-pointers: Harmison 2, Verhagen, Mielke. Fouls: 12.
Appleton East: Pistone 6, Froiland 5, Schmidt 11, Smith 2, Piehl 14. Totals: 13 5-6 38. Three-pointers: Piehl 4, Pistone 2, Schmidt. Fouls: 14.
— Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-1000, ext. 558, or email@example.com; On Twitter @PCRicardo