BELOIT - In a battle between two of the top teams in the Rock Valley Conference Monday night, Beloit Turner's Trojans simply didn't have enough answers for AJ Vukovich.
Turner fell to East Troy 61-57 in a hard-fought battle in front of a packed crowd that left both teams feeling well-prepared for the upcoming WIAA playoffs.
Turner dropped into a second-place tie with Evansville with a mark of 12-5 in RVC play, while East Troy took a huge step in finishing the season undefeated in conference play.
East Troy is now 16-0, with only home games against Edgerton and Brodhead separating them from running the table.
Vukovich, the RVC's leading scorer at 26.6 points per game, led all scorers with 30 points, and East Troy led the game virtually wire-to-wire, though Turner did cut the lead to one point in the second half.
Turner coach Ken Watkins was pragmatic about the outcome.,
"I thought both teams played hard," Watkins said. "I thought we played well, and I thought they did, too. We were the ones that got the short end of the stick tonight. We just couldn't quite get over the hump, and you've got to give East Troy credit. We made a number of runs, and they never caved."
Despite another big game from Vukovich, Watkins was satisfied with the job they did on the big man.
"He finished with 30 points, but he had to work for every one of them," Watkins said. "And that's what he is. He's a hard worker and a tough player. We tried to double-team him at times, and he was still able to get his points. And as a team, they shot the ball really well at times."
A late run in the first half gave East Troy a 33-25 edge at the break. Vukovich had 17 of East Troy's points, while forward Kenny Draeving led Turner with 13.
East Troy extended the advantage to 11 early in the second half before Turner held them scoreless for nearly seven minutes, an impressive feat against a team that has scored 90-plus points five times this year.
However, Turner was only able to shave four points off the lead in that time.
"That's been a story for us all year, is we go in these long offensive droughts at times," Watkins said. "To only score four points in seven minutes against a team like that, it's just not good enough."
Still, led by an energized Jordan Majeed, who scored all nine of his points in the second half, Turner closed to within a point with five minutes left.
That's when Vukovich and a strong East Troy defense combined to recapture the momentum. Following a 6-1 East Troy run, Turner wasn't able to get the lead under six points again until just before the final buzzer when DJ Wash nailed a trey to provide the final margin.
Draeving ended up leading the Trojans with 19 points, while Dai`Vontrelle Strong added 13. Those two, along with forward Alden Tinder, also did the vast majority of work guarding Vukovich, an exhausting task.
"I thought Kenny was great tonight," Watkins said. "He finished, he played great defense, and he hustled like crazy. He's had three or four good games in a row. If he brings that in the tournament, we will be unbeatable."
• UP NEXT: The Trojans will close out the regular season Thursday with a game at McFarland.
EAST TROY 61, TURNER 57
East Troy (61)-Polakoski 4-3-14, Lottig 2-0-6, Vukovich 8-13-30, Cummings 2-5-11. Totals: 16-21-61.
Turner (57)-Majeed 2-5-9, Wash 3-0-7, Draeving 9-0-19, Tinder 1-0-2, Dillard 3-0-7, Strong 6-1-13. Totals: 24-6-57.
East Troy 33 28-61
Turner 25 32-57
3-point goals-ET 8 (Polakoski 3, Lottig 2, Cummings 2, Vukovich 1), Turner 3 (Wash 1, Draeving 1, Dillard 1). Free throws missed-ET 5, Turner 4. Total fouls-ET 11, Turner 20. Fouled out-Tinder, Strong.