EAST TROY, Wis. - The Turner Trojans went into Tuesday night's game in East Troy knowing that star forward AJ Vukovich was going to get his share of points.
After all, the junior led the Rock Valley Conference in scoring at 27 points per game. Turner coach Ken Watkins was aiming to shut down Vukovich's help.
The plan worked in part, as Vukovich scored just a point over his season average and no other East Troy player scored over 14 points.
However, it was the East Troy defense that made the difference in its 64-50 victory over Turner. East Troy remained unbeaten in conference play at 8-0, while Turner dropped to 5-3.
"If you would've told me he would've finished with 28 points tonight, I would have thought we would have won the game, and won the game by double figures," Watkins said. "He's just a really good player. If you give him too much attention, he's going to find his teammates. They can stick the three, and they are really skilled. But the thing that nobody talks about is how good they are on the defensive end, and that's where they got us tonight."
Turner trailed 34-24 at halftime after a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from East Troy's Quinten Lottig. Vukovich got hot to start the second half, and vaulted his team to a seemingly insurmountable 19-point lead.
Turner then upped its intensity and went on an unlikely 14-0 run that featured contributions from several Trojans. By the time the run was done, Turner trailed by just five points with five minutes to play.
"The politically correct answer would be that I knew my team was capable of that run, and that it was going to happen at any time," Watkins said. "But you get down 19 to East Troy, you don't see that coming. I thought our energy was really good and we gave ourselves a chance. I was really proud of that effort. We just dug ourselves too deep of a hole and had to expend a little too much energy to come back and make it close."
Kenny Draeving scored 13 points to lead the Trojans, while Jordan Majeed added 11. Dylan Hoppe got the surprise start and was efficient for Turner, scoring nine points and doing his best to get a big body on Vukovich.
"I thought Dylan played a great game for us," Watkins said. "He came in and played really hard. I thought he did as good of a job as you could possibly do against Vukovich. I also thought Ty'Shone Lomax was really good for us in that second half, and so was Danny Burrows. He was really poised for us in that second half."
Draeving said the team had to dig deep when the game appeared lost.
"It really just came down to guts," Draeving said. "We decided to actually start playing hard. We had a really slow first half. It seemed like we played scared. We changed some things at halftime, started playing physical and made a run. Unfortunately, we just couldn't pull it out at the end."
The Trojans are in the midst of a difficult three-game stretch. They lost to Jefferson last week, and followed that with Tuesday's loss at East Troy. They must now face the other conference heavyweight as they host McFarland Friday night.
"This is a huge game for us," Draeving said. "It's a must-win if we want to have a chance at winning conference. We're going to have to win out and hope for some losses along the way from East Troy."
• BOXSCORE: EAST TROY 64, TURNER 50
Turner (50)-Lomax 2-0-4; Majeed 5-0-11; Wash 1-1-3; Marquardt 0-2-2; Carter 1-0-3; Draeving 6-0-13; Tinder 1-0-2; Dillard 1-1-3; Hoppe 3-2-9. Totals: 20-6-50.
East Troy (64)-Rosin 0-2-2; Polakoski 2-7-12; Lottig 3-6-14; Vukovich 11-3-28; Cummings 4-0-8. Totals: 20-18- 64.
Beloit Turner......................... 24 26-50
East Troy............................... 34 30-64
3-point goals-Turner 4 (Majeed 1, Carter 1, Draeving 1, Hoppe 1). East Troy 6 (Vukovich 3, Lottig 2, Polakoski 1). Free throws missed-Turner 6, East Troy 7. Total fouls-Turner 19, East Troy 15.