'Relevant': A good word to describe the Homestead girls
Highlanders basketball team starts 4-0
Homestead girls basketball coach Matt Heuser searched for the proper words that would aptly describe his still young but ever-striving and improving team this winter.
"We're relevant again," he said quietly.
And based on the early results, it would be hard to argue with his assessment that for the first time in about five years, Homestead will be a team to be reckoned with.
The Highlanders overpowered nonconference foe Menomonee Falls, 45-31, on Dec. 9 and then overcame some ugly moments in beating Grafton, 30-25, in a North Shore Conference tilt Friday to improve to 4-0 overall.
The Highlanders will see how relevant they can become this week. They take on North Shore rival Nicolet on Tuesday and then host defending North Shore champion Cedarburg at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Bulldogs (3-1) are coming off their first loss of the year, a decision to high-flying Germantown on Friday.
"It's an important game for us," Heuser said.
The game was made relevant because of the gritty-messy effort against Grafton on Friday. The Highlanders scuffled their way to a 14-7 first half lead and then held a 20-14 advantage heading into the fourth period.
A three-point basket by the Blackhawks on their first possession was their only half-court bucket in the first half, Heuser said.
In the fourth quarter, the Highlanders turned up the defensive pressure and were able to notch "a ton of steals," Heuser said.
"We got the lead up to 25-16 and then for no reason at all, we started hacking them," he said, "but when we needed stops we got them, and they helped us out by missing four front ends (of bonus free throw situations)."
A three-pointer from the top of the key by Taylor McIlwraith late in the fourth made it a four-point game and the Highlanders were able to hold on from there.
"That really gave us a burst of energy," Heuser said of the shot.
The Highlanders never trailed in the game.
Homestead could have made life easier on itself had it hit free throws, but were only 11 of 22 for the game.
McIlwraith had 11 points for Homestead while Marciarae Harmon had nine including five-of-six free throws.
Heuser was relieved that the team was able to pull out a win despite just three combined points from Christal Hearn and Danielle Neilson.
"We won't win too many games doing that," he said. "As it is, there are very few easy wins in this league."
But they will if they keep up their 29 points a game defensive average.
Against Falls, the Highlanders took an 18-3 first quarter lead and were able to cruise home from there. They hit 12-of-18 free throws as opposed to just one of two for Falls.
McIlwraith led the way with 15 points as Neilson had nine and Hearn seven.
Heuser said the top of the half-court defense, Taylor McIlwraith, Hearn and Harmon are making life very difficult on opponents as Hearn had a huge game with seven points, nine rebounds and 12 deflections.
"Free throws remain a concern and we haven't shot well lately," Heuser said. "That will happen, but we continue to step it up on the defensive end."
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