The Brookfield boys lost a pair of tough-to-swallow games on Monday and Tuesday, just before they go on greater than a two-week break for the holidays.
The Bulldogs hosted on back-to-back nights. Westran came to town on Monday, and Brookfield saw Fayette the following evening.
"For the most part, in all of our games, we've had a chance to compete and had a really good first half of the season," Brookfield coach Jerod Gillman said. "We have to learn how to win, and that's part of the deal. It all comes down to how you handle those situations late."
After leading 28-27 against Westran, the game came down to a wild fourth quarter. The home team lost, 56-54.
The Bulldogs trailed 43-38 entering the final period, and the Hornets came out and converted a three-point play almost immediately. That eight-point deficit was the largest for either team all evening, although Brookfield had another eight-point margin for which to compensate after it gave up a four-point play a few minutes later.
Cooper Cisna banged home a three around the three-minute mark, and after Westran went one-of-two from the line on the next possession to make it a 54-50 game, the offenses went dead after Brookfield switched to man-to-man pressure. Westran went one-of-two again with 28 second remaining to give the Hornets a 55-50 lead.
With 15 seconds remaining, Cisna made a layup. Disaster struck for the Hornets, and the Bulldogs stole the inbound pass. Scrappy sophomore guard Carsen Beckman got the board, missed a layup, and Cisna was fouled after raking in got the ensuing rebound.
He knocked down a pair of free throws to make the score 55-54, and the Bulldogs had to foul immediately. Westran hit one-of-two, and with six seconds remaining, Brookfield was unable to get a decent look as time expired.
"I thought the boys executed the game plan well, and executed well offensively," Gillman said. "We've played better on defense, but I don't think it was a bad effort. They match up with us better than a lot of other teams from a size standpoint.
"If I had to play it again, I'd play it exactly the same way. They're a team that's not going to shoot that well from the three-point line every night, but they did tonight, and that's what matters."
Westran knocked down nine three-pointers, and guard Trey Burton was responsible for six of them. He tied Cisna for a game-high 19 points.
Stephan Montgomery had 11 points, and Beckman posted eight.
Versus Fayette on Tuesday, the fourth quarter proved to be the Achilles for the Bulldogs.
As Gillman put it, his team had seven quarters in it over the course of two nights, but it did not have the eighth.
Brookfield led the whole way despite Fayette's smart, lengthy full-court press, and took a 51-44 lead into the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs' fortunes turned quickly.
Brookfield did not score a point in the opening seven minutes of the fourth quarter, and meanwhile, Fayette went on a 19-0 run.
The Falcons went on to win, 65-55.
Fayette's Kyle Schleeter hung 28 points on the Bulldogs, and 20 of them came in the second half. He knocked down eight of the Falcons' eight three-pointers.
Cisna, who left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent knee injury, led his team with 23 points. Jacob Day's 13 was the only other tally in double-digits. Montgomery and Avery Schreiner both had six.
"Guys just kind of ran out of energy," Gillman said. "I should have put some kids in sooner and went man-to-man. We would have given up some offense there, but we'd have fresh legs. Tonight, you saw an exhausted six-man rotation."
Brookfield will not play again until the Marceline tournament in the first full week of January.