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Homestead boys try to make history Friday at Germantown

Highlanders, Warhawks square off in battle of unbeatens

Homestead guard Jerrod Walton will be one of the keys to success for the Highlanders when they visit powerful Germantown on Friday.

Homestead guard Jerrod Walton will be one of the keys to success for the Highlanders when they visit powerful Germantown on Friday. Photo By C.T. Kruger

Jan. 7, 2014

In short, there has not been a game like this for the Homestead boys basketball program in 14 years, the last time the team won a North Shore Conference title.

The 10-0 and ninth-ranked Highlanders, rolling after an 83-43 non-conference rout of Brookfield East on Saturday, visit the top-ranked, 12-0, two-time WIAA state defending champions from Germantown at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Both teams were to have had a warm-up for that tilt Tuesday, but the cold weather postponed the Highlanders' game with Milwaukee Lutheran and the Warhawks' meeting with Nicolet.

Homestead coach Kevin McKenna was playing things close to the vest when talking about the matchup after Saturday's win over East.

"After Tuesday night, we'll let ourselves look forward to that opportunity (of Germantown)," he said with a wry smile. "We'll see where both teams are at then."

The Highlanders are in a good place right now, as with their length (a good match for the slightly smaller Warhawks this season), their speed (a Germantown trademark) and their ability to press (the Warhawks' calling card) they might be the team that can stand in and maybe get the job done where many others have not.

And what a feat it would be.

Not overlooked

The Warhawks will be playing just their third home game of the season and enter the contest with a state-record 68-game winning streak. They have won or shared six of the last seven North Shore Conference titles.

In fact, Germantown has not lost a North Shore Conference game since Feb. 12, 2010 (51 in a row), but veteran Warhawks coach Steve Showalter did not get this far by looking past people and he is taking the Highlanders very, very seriously.

"They're a very nice team, and it should make for an interesting game," he said of Homestead.

If Homestead is able to pull off this upset, it would go a long ways toward securing their first league title since 1999-2000. It was the last of five North Shore titles for the Highlanders who also won in 1987, 1994, 1995 and 1998, all under the guidance of the late John Chekouras.

Can this team join that elite group and make history?

We'll have to wait and see.

Share and share alike

If they do, their ball-sharing skills will likely play a key role.

In Saturday's win, one of McKenna's assistants told him that the team may be guilty of a little "oversharing" when it comes to making the extra pass on offense.

But with five players in double figures for the win, McKenna was not about to complain.

"I actually liked it, in fact, I'll take it" he said. "We were a little sloppy on the boards, but that gives us something to work on."

The Highlanders took decisive control over their youthful hosts from East on Saturday (2-6) with a 13-0 run to close out the first quarter. That burst took the lead from 12-7 to 25-7.

In that run, junior swingman Mitch Sutton had five points and junior forward Jaylen Key four as Homestead used pressure defense and fine interior passing to create numerous easy opportunities.

"It wasn't a completely great start," McKenna said, "but we did a nice job of separating ourselves then (at the end of the first quarter). It was good that we put the hammer down."

After a fitful second quarter that left Homestead up 42-24 going into the half, the hammer came down decisively in the third, as the Highlanders turned into a smooth-running machine, getting inside, getting fouled and going to the line often.

They were an impressive 17 of 20 from the line in the period, as they started the session with a 21-2 run that expanded the lead to 63-26 with 2:20 left in the quarter.

Led by Key's 14 points, 10 Homestead players scored. Others included Sutton and Luke Mueller with 12 each, Jerrod Walton with 11, Jack Popp with 10 and Seth Cooley with nine.

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