Homestead boys pay homage to Chekouras by winning their own tourney title
Highlanders both rally, win from the front
Mequon - Almost flying under the radar, the almost all-underclassmen Homestead boys basketball team ended the 2011 portion of its season on an impressive note, downing both Madison East (79-57) and Waukesha West (62-52) to earn the championship in its own John Chekouras Classic last week.
"What I like about this team, more than that we finished the first half of the season at 10-1, is that no one expected us to be good," Highlanders coach Marquis Hines said. "They just go out there and do it. They work hard and they keep a good frame of mind."
The Highlanders (4-0 in North Shore, 10-1 overall) look to keep pace with unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Germantown (4-0, 10-0) when it hosts Milwaukee Lutheran (1-3, 4-3) in a 7:40 p.m. tilt Friday.
There were other things that Hines liked about the championship the team earned last week. One was that his squad rallied from a 14-6 first quarter deficit against West in the final, and the second was that it was the Chekouras, the late Homestead Hall of Famer, who lived, breathed and walked Highlanders basketball for so many years.
"We've always tried to make this a great tournament," said Hines, "so to honor John this way makes it even better."
Center keys rally
After falling behind to West (5-5), the Highlanders rallied to tie the score at 25 at the half. They then pushed ahead with a 19-13 burst in the third quarter and managed to keep the Wolverines at bay with a strong effort at the foul line. Homestead was 20 of 27 from the line for the game as opposed to just 8 of 11 for West.
Junior center Luke Worthington was 5 of 6 from the line en route to 15 points while sophomore point guard LaMonté Bearden was 6 of 10 (10 points) and freshman guard Joseph Binyoti was 4 of 6 from the charity stripe.
"We put a little pressure on big Luke (6-8) at halftime and he responded with a great second half," Hines said. "He hit some shots, he got to the foul line.
"This is a huge victory for us. (West coach) David (Schultz) has been doing this a long time. They're a very disciplined bunch over there (at West), so anytime you get them, it's big."
Junior forward Sam Kaegi added nine and senior guard Cody Berger eight for the Highlanders.
Fast start in semi
The semifinal victory over East (3-6) was just the opposite for Homestead, as Worthington had eight of his 15 points in a fast-paced 23-14 first quarter. The Highlanders built on the lead in the second session and carried a 46-32 advantage going into the break.
They never looked back from there.
"It helped that we started off well," Hines said. "We had some good match-ups, and East was a very young team. We wanted to have a good start and we got it."
Junior forward Jake Laihinen had 18 points to go along with Worthington's 15 while Bearden was also in double figures with 11. Freshman forward Jaylen Key, the son of former Marquette University great Damon Key, had eight points as did junior guard Darius Marshall.
"Our future is really bright," Hines said. "Freshmen (like Binyoti and Key) are playing considerable minutes and the other young kids are also getting important playing time, too."
He praised Worthington and Bearden for their overall tournament efforts.
QUICK CHEKOURAS BIO: He was head coach for 17 years from 1988-2006 before passing away after suffering a heart arrhythmia while out running in 2006. He had an overall record of 229-147. Included in that were four conference titles, seven regional championships and his 1994 team, which made it all the way to the state semifinals. He has the most wins in both Homestead and North Shore basketball history.
PERSONAL NOTES FROM THE PROGRAM: "John was a passionate educator, who paid attention to detail, and whose heart was always full of joy. He viewed teaching classes and coaching basketball teams as an opportunity to help mold character. … His care and concern for our special needs population endeared him to many outside of the basketball world. There is no question, Homestead High School is a better place because of the impact John made."
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