Whitefish Bay junior forward Joe Sherburne has said that he "Hasn't hit a three-pointer at home all season."
Well, if so, he made amends for it a good time on Friday night, as in the battle for second place in the North Shore Conference against rival Homestead, he bombed in five trifectas in the third quarter to head off a Highlander rally and lead the Blue Dukes to a 70-60 victory.
"I've been in something of a slump for awhile now," said Sherburne, "but something just clicked tonight."
Sherburne finished with a game-high 28 points as the Blue Dukes improved to 6-1 in North Shore play and 10-3 overall while Homestead fell to 5-2 and 9-6, respectively.
Bay senior guard Kelin Johnson, who finished with 21 points, including a critical 10-point outburst in the second quarter that helped put the Blue Dukes ahead for good, thinks that Sherburne is being much too modest.
"It really helps our offense when he hits his threes," said Johnson. "When he's on, he's really dangerous."
No more so than in the third quarter.
Bay, behind back-to-back three-point plays from Johnson, went on a 15-4 run to close out the second quarter. That effort erased a 16-11 deficit and sent the Blue Dukes into the half with a 26-20 advantage.
The Blue Dukes, who at one point in the first half were a miserable four of 27 from the field, finished the second quarter by scoring on their final seven possessions.
Interestingly enough, Sherburne, who finished the first half with just four points, didn't have a point in the closing outburst.
Johnson more than made up for his absence.
"Kelin's effort right then was huge," said Blue Duke coach Kevin Lazovik. "He played hard and with energy. He got us some huge buckets right when we needed them and when nothing else was falling."
Until Sherburne heated up in the third quarter.
Homestead stretched the advantage to 33-24 early in the third quarter on threes from Sherburne and sophomore guard Miles Sigh (nine points), but the Highlanders fought back with an 8-0 run that included a three-point play by center Luke Worthington that made it 33-32 with 4:12 remaining in the quarter.
That's when Sherburne got busy as in the space of 42 seconds, he hit one three from the baseline and then two more from the same spot on the left wing to make it 42-32 with 2:45 left in the third.
"Joe is just that kind of shooter," said Lazovik. "When he gets hot, he gets absolutely on fire and that can really carry a team. Without those threes, this game would have been much, much different."
Highlander coach Kevin McKenna agreed.
"We had the score almost tied up," said McKenna, whose team took a 12-9 first quarter lead despite the fact that the BYU recruit Worthington sat on the bench for the entire first period for a reason the coach would not go into, "and our defense had them stymied, but good players (like Sherburne) can go off. We just didn't shade our screens very well and get to the shooter in time."
Sherburne hit one more three before the end of the third to make it 45-36 Bay going into the fourth.
He hit one more three and cashed a free throw early in the final session as the lead rose to 54-38 with 4:48 remaining.
The Highlanders used some pressure defense to get back into the game, and Jake Laihinen, one of four Highlanders in the game in double figures with 16 points, hit two free throws with 1:23 left to close the gap to 60-53.
But that would be as close as they would get as in the next 36 seconds Johnson would hit six free throws in a row to seal the victory. All told, the Blue Dukes would hit 20 of 25 free throws as opposed to just nine of 10 for Homestead.
"We hit throse throws down the stretch when we needed them," said Lazovik. "That's what good teams do."
"We worked so hard to get back into the game, but we couldn't complete it," said McKenna. "I think we lost some composure offensively (in the first half) when they started putting pressure on us. We just didn't react well."
"...They're a good team and were resilient when we put pressure on them."
Guard Jerrod Walton who was saddled with four trouble all night before fouling out late in the fourth, finished with 11 for Homestead while Sam Kaegi and Worthington had 10 points apiece.
The Blue Dukes, who had entered the game fresh off a psychologically important win over former number one in state D3 polls Little Chute, now know that they have a critical leg up in the race to see who can potentially unseat defending state champion Germantown (7-0, 12-0) in the North Shore.
Homestead had edged Bay for second in the North Shore last season as Germantown won its first state title with a 28-0 record.
"We knew we needed this one if we wanted to stay close," said Sherburne. "Last year we lost out (on second) and we wanted to make up for that."
"Things definitely worked tonight," said Johnson. "We want to stay close in the North Shore, so we keep working everyday and try to play our best every night out."
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