Second-year Homestead boys basketball coach Marquis Hines wants to emphasis defense this season with his still young squad and it was clear from the start Friday night that the team got the message with an effective 58-40 win over Kenosha Tremper in the semifinals of the Highlanders' own tournament.
"I think overall we did pretty good," he said. "We're still young and we still need work on eliminating turnovers and boxing out but it was a good win."
We've made defense our number one thing this year. We've put special emphasis on it and we want to become solid as a unit with it night in and night out."
With the victory, the Highlanders advance to the championship game of the tournament Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against West Allis Central, which defeated Madison West in the other semifinal.
"That's going to be a heck of a challenge for us," said Hines.
The Highlanders never trailed in their season opener against Tremper, as a three-pointer from Nick Mueller and an offensive rebound from 6-8 center Luke Worthington keyed a 10-2 opening run.
The advantage stretched out to 18-4 as James Reilly and Sam Kaegi hit back-to-back three-pointers late in the first quarter.
Reilly came in for special praise this night, as the junior guard scored a a game-high 19 points.
"He really stepped it up," said Hines. "He's put in a lot of hard work and its really paid off. He no longer has to solely rely on his jump shot."
Things got a little fuzzy for the Highlanders in the second quarter, as the Trojans went on an 8-0 run as Tremper senior guard Connor Patty hit back-to-back jumpers to make it 22-20 Homestead with 2:09 left in the half.
But Reilly righted the ship with one of his four three-pointers and Homestead was able to extend its lead back to 29-22 at the break.
After Worthington (nine points) and Reilly each hit hoops in the first minute of the third quarter, the lead would never drop below eight.
Homestead scored 13 of the first 15 points of the fourth quarter and eventually had a margin of 52-30 with 4:49 left.
Sophomore point guard LaMonte Bearden had 13 points for Homestead while Kaegi also had seven.
Dexter Molinaro led Tremper with 12.
Hines was also pleased with freshman guard Jaylen Key who played several hard minutes off the bench.
"He will be a stud by the time he's all done," said Hines.
It was a good start to the season, Hines added.
"A win's a wiin and we know what we have to work on," he said. "We have great kids here, really good to work with. No headaches at all. This is one of the best teams I've had in terms of working together."
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