The Wauwatosa East boys basketball team announced its award winners this week and senior guards Vince Cupertino and Diamonte 'Money' Mckinley shared the Red Raiders' Most Valuable Player honors.
Cupertino and Mckinley join Zak Sylvester, Bryce Kratzer, Riley Poe and Martin Minix to form this year's senior class.
'This senior group was just a great bunch of kids to work with,' Red Raiders coach Tim Arndorfer said. 'They are a bright group - in the classroom and on the basketball court. They have a passion to win and the work ethic to get there. They left a good model for our other guys to follow.'
Junior forward Kyle Vnuk was named the Most Improved Player and the Coaches Award went to Poe and Minix.
The Gary Grzesk Award (for defense) went to Cupertino and Sylvester and the Chris Braier Award (rebounding) went to Cupertino.
Mckinley was on the Greater Metro Conference all-conference second team, while Cupertino and Kratzer earned honorable mention honors.
The GMC's senior scholar-athlete awards went to Cupertino, Sylvester, Poe and Minix.
The Red Raiders finished with a 16-10 overall record and a third-place finish in the GMC (8-6).
When asked to sum up the 2011-12 campaign, Arndorfer was quick to reply.
'I think 'roller-coaster' is a good word,' he said. 'We certainly had a terrific start to the year. We were pleased that everyone came together. I was impressed with the way they played. It was nice to hear people say we were a fun team to watch.'
Tosa East began the year 6-0 and won 10 of its first 11 games, losing only to Division 1 state champion Germantown in that stretch.
The Red Raiders then lost to Brookfield Central on Jan. 13 and dropped eight of their final 11 regular season games.
'We got into January and the wheels fell off due to injuries and other things out of our control,' Arndorfer said. 'I think in the second half we were dealing with a lot of doubt, which is difficult to overcome in athletics.'
But the Red Raiders bounced back, winning three straight playoff games over Wauwatosa West, Milwaukee Northwest and Milwaukee Samuel Morse-Marshall/Juneau before losing to Milwaukee Washington. In their final game, they were trailing, 28-9 at halftime, but made a run at the Purgolders in the second half, outscoring them 27-22.
'Somehow, they found a way to overcome it (the doubt),' Arndorfer said. 'They dealt with a lot, but persevered and handled the playoff stretch and were pretty impressive.
'The regional championship is something to be proud of. We didn't want (the season) to end. I thought we showed a lot of character - especially in the second half of the Washington game. That sort of summed up the year. We never quit. I'm proud of the way they conducted themselves.'
The Red Raiders will have eight juniors returning next season, so Arndorfer should have something to build on.
Returning are guards Nate Moore, Ben Carpenter, Devin Ross, Anthony Carroll and Marquise Carter and forwards Vnuk, Mitch Dillon and Ben Mihelich.