Homestead girls knock off four-time NSC champion Nicolet, 43-40
Young players key to success
It wasn't a pretty breakthrough but it was a breakthrough nonetheless for the Homestead girls basketball team, as the Highlanders improved to 2-0 overall with a messy, but character-driven, 43-40, North Shore Conference triumph over four-time league champion Nicolet on Friday.
"This was a very big win," Highlanders coach Matt Heuser said. "I think in years past, we found ways to lose games like this, to give it up, and one of the question marks that we had this year was that because of our youth and inexperience, how would we hold up in close games?
"… I think we found some answers."
The Highlanders try to build on their momentum this week, as they visit Wauwatosa East on Tuesday and then head to Port Washington on Friday.
Meanwhile, Nicolet coach Rick DeKeyser was not disappointed in the effort against the Highlanders. He knows he has a different team this year and that it will be as much about learning as it is winning this season.
"From a fan's standpoint it was a great game to watch," he said. "I'm not going to say anything really bad except that we really didn't play very well. This team is different than others we've had in the past, where we had a lot of year-round basketball players. On this team, we have three kids starting who are primarily soccer players, another whose major sport is softball and that leaves Briana (Gray as the only year-round basketball player).
"… Still, these are great girls and they are playing with a lot of heart and desire."
Marotta shines for Homestead
One of the keys to the victory for Homestead, Heuser said, was the play of senior guard Karley Marotta.
"She really put us on her back, for a long while," he said. "She made some big stops defensively and had a ton of assists."
Another key to the win was holding the Knights' St. Louis University recruit Gray to just seven points.
"We also held them to 40 points, which gave us a chance," Heuser said. "We had numerous opportunities to put it away and eventually we did."
But not easily.
The score was tied at 27 at the end of three quarters. Freshmen guard Kaelee McIlwraith hit a 3-pointer to put the Highlanders up right away in the quarter.
"And then after that, I think we were only down once in the period," Heuser said.
The Highlanders went up 37-32 but missed a series of free throws that would have put the game away. The Knights hit a couple of key 3-pointers, including one by guard Sara Travia to keep it close.
McIlwraith hit two more free throws late and then she made the second of a two-shot situation to make it 43-40 with about 3.6 seconds remaining.
Nicolet got off a rushed shot that wasn't close to the basket.
Young players come up big
"This says a lot about our kids," Heuser said. "(Marciarae) Harmon and McIlwraith are just a sophomore and a freshman (respectively) and then we had some major foul trouble," Heuser said. He said junior forward Jenna Burns came off the bench to turn in some valuable minutes.
"We still feel good about the kids and the team," DeKeyser said.
"Nothing was easy and there were no style points here, but it was a big win," said Heuser, "and for the first time in awhile, all three levels (including junior varsity and freshmen) are 2-0."
McIlwraith had 18 points and Harmon 16 for Homestead while Lanoira Duhart had eight for Nicolet.
Nicolet will be at Milwaukee Lutheran on Friday for a North Shore tilt.
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