With a pending move from the Badger Conference to the Rock Valley Conference taking place next year, Monroe traveled to Madison to play Edgewood in the Crusaders' gym for the final time in league play Tuesday evening.
These two league powers have had some classic games over the years, often with title implications.
While it's still too early to tell exactly how things will shake out in 2022-23, Edgewood took a step in the right direction, using a 15-0 scoring spurt midway through the first half to record a 66-52 victory.
Lucas Shulla Cose
After a somewhat slow start to the season, Edgewood is beginning to come together under first-year coach Reggie Patterson.
The Crusaders notched their fifth win in the past six games with the triumph over Monroe. In addition to the Cheesemakers, Edgewood has defeated Stoughton, Mount Horeb, Oregon and Lake Mills during its recent stretch.
Edgewood improved to 8-4 overall and 5-2 in the Badger West heading into a non-league game Saturday at Platteville.
"This is my first year with these guys and we are all still trying to figure things out," said Patterson, who served as the head coach at Verona the past few seasons before accepting a teaching position at Edgewood last summer. "I'd be worried if we had it all figured out so early in the season. We have a lot more games and a lot more practices left to improve."
A pair of seniors led the way for Edgewood against Monroe.
Ever-improving senior wing Lucas Shulla Cose (6-4) finished with 19 points while athletic senior wing Al Deang (6-3) added 18, including three impressive dunks.
"Al and Lucas are special," Patterson said. "They complement each other very well. They can get to the hoop and they can shoot it as well."
Nine minutes into the game, Edgewood was scuffling offensively and trailed the Cheesemakers, 12-6.
The Crusaders suddenly awoke and went on a 15-0 run, capped on a three-point basket from senior Hunter Dobrinsky. Edgewood led 35-18 at intermission.
Monroe was able to cut the margin to eight points on two different occasions in the second half, but turnovers proved costly and Edgewood was able to keep the Cheesemakers at arm's length.
Nine Edgewood players scored with both Dobrinsky and senior Mark Haering (6-2) scoring eight points.
"When the team shows the leadership it shows in practices, then you'll see things like that 15-0 run," Patterson said. "We have had lulls in games and it is a concern because I know we can play a full game."
Like other times so far this season, Monroe played some pretty good basketball for large chunks of its game with Edgewood.
However, giving up a 15-0 run that turned a 12-6 lead into a 21-12 deficit proved too much to overcome as the Cheesemakers slipped to 5-7 overall and 2-5 in the Badger West.
That nine-point deficit late in the first half turned into a 35-18 hole by intermission, thanks in part to a steal and dunk by Deang in the closing seconds of the first 18 minutes.
Monroe came out inspired in the second half and rallied behind the scoring of senior Tucker Markham (6-2) and junior James Seagreaves (6-4).
Twice, the Cheesemakers had the ball trailing by eight points, but on both possessions, Monroe turned the ball over and Edgewood scored on the other end.
"Those were two bad turnovers and were just killers for us," Monroe coach Brian Bassett said. "It's been the same thing in every game. We win three-quarters of every game, but we have that one bad stretch. The second nine minutes of the first half, they took it to us."
Seagreaves, an athletic wing who can elevate near the basket, and Markham, a strong backcourt player who can get to the basket, sparked Monroe's second-half rally. Both Seagreaves and Markham finished the contest with 19 points.
So, too, did senior Braden Rupnow (6-2), who came off the bench to knock down two three-point baskets after intermission.
"We had two kids play who normally don't play all that much in Rupnow and (Keegan) Dahmen," Bassett said. "My son (Brandon Bassett) got hurt in practice and had to sit out tonight and he normally plays a lot of minutes. It was nice to see Rupnow step up and hit those shots for us."
Edgewood now leads the all-time series with Monroe, 44-30.