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Homestead boys basketball team bounces back as it gets its full lineup back

Walton, Popp return from ankle injuries to help team score victories

Feb. 4, 2014

Homestead boys basketball coach Kevin McKenna looked around last week and essentially said to himself:

"It's good to have a full roster again."

Getting starting wings 6-5 Jerrod Walton and 6-4 Jack Popp back from ankle injuries has made all the difference for the Highlanders.

They snapped their two-game losing skid by knocking down Grafton, 62-54, last Friday in a game that was not as close as it looked and then came back the next night to rout non-conference opponent Waukesha South, 65-44.

"They're still nursing things, they're at about 80 percent," said McKenna of the pair, "but it was still good to see the starting five together for the first time in two weeks."

The Highlanders started the week 7-2 in North Shore play and 13-3 overall. They are two games back of Germantown (11-0, 17-1) in the loss column, but McKenna is still hoping for some help down the line and a chance to make the regular season finale with Germantown Feb. 20 at home "a meaningful game."

"We're still going to battle until the end," he said.

Homestead took on Nicolet on Tuesday and then will host Cedarburg at 7:30 p.m. Friday. In a game that will have ramifications for WIAA sectional seeding, the Highlanders host Arrowhead in a non-conference tilt at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

In the defeat of visiting South last Saturday night, the Highlanders had an advantage in all four quarters and led 29-22 at the half. They gradually pulled away and then buried the Blackshirts 21-10 in the fourth quarter.

Post Jaylen Key had a big night with 26 points as four players broke into double figures including Walton with 14 and Popp and Luke Mueller with 10 apiece. Walton hit two 3-pointers.

Against Grafton, the Highlanders roared out to a 19-9 first-quarter lead and led 32-19 at the break. An 11-2 run at the start of the third quarter all but put the Blackhawks away for good.

"The good part was that we got a lot of kids in, a lot of people got good minutes," McKenna said. "The downfall of all that, was that they couldn't hold the lead."

The lead actually got down to six points with 56 seconds left.

"You've got to be able to hold the lead in a situation like that," McKenna said. "We talked about taking care of the ball. Overall, it was a pretty good game. Our defense was pretty good but I still felt that we got beat off the dribble a bit too much."

Nine players scored for Homestead. The Highlanders were led by Walton with 15, Key 14, Popp 11 and Mueller 10.

He said having Popp and Walton back adds another dimension to the team.

"They're both so active," McKenna said. "They're both slashers with great first steps. Getting their speed back in the line-up is a big bonus."

McKenna said the team never doubted itself, even after the discouraging loss to middling Port Washington on Jan. 24.

"Morale is great," he said. "The kids cheer for each other and they really didn't miss a beat. Our goal is still to do the best we can, be there at the end and be the last team standing."

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