In close, meaningful games, a team tends to bond over a huge 3-pointer or a gutsy defensive stand. The Homestead boys gathered themselves early in the fourth quarter not after a huge play by a teammate but rather the opponent, Waukesha West.
After a 3-point play was followed up by a technical foul, Homestead went on a 10-2 run to close the door and notch a 62-51 WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal win over the fifth-seeded Wolverines. The Highlanders advanced to play at No.1-seeded Germantown on Saturday night.
"To be honest with you, it just really made us mad," said Highlanders forward Luke Worthington. "We kind of rallied around it. A lot of the calls were not going our way all night, but we battled through it."
Holding a cozy 46-35 lead two minutes into the fourth quarter, Homestead felt the boat take a hit. West senior Christian Walz scored a layup and the Highlanders (15-8) were called for a five-second, closely-guarded violation on the ensuing possession.
West guard Earnest Cowser drove to the basket, and Tyler Domenoski was able to gather a rebound, avoid a tumble and put up a shot that went in attached with a foul by Worthington, which put him on the bench for a considerable amount of time. The technical made matters worse, and Domenoski drilled all three free throws to cut the lead to only 46-42 with 5:22 remaining.
"I think it was a technical based on a bad call," said Homestead coach Kevin McKenna. "What was huge for us, though, was that they did not score on the possession after the technical."
With the 6-foot-9 Worthington, a BYU recruit, now the team's biggest cheerleader, it was up to the experienced backcourt of Homestead to take over. The Homestead gym was extremely empty because of the school's concurrent playoff hockey game, something Worthington noted as he tried to keep the energy high.
"We picked the wrong time to not play as well as we have been," said West coach David Schultz. "You have to give them a lot of credit, though. They made plays down the stretch when they needed too. We had an opportunity there and they just did not lose their composure."
The Highlanders backcourt made West (14-9) pay. First it was senior Jake Laihinen who drilled a 3 from the corner on Homestead's first possession after the technical foul. Next, it was reserve senior guard Darius Marshall scoring on a layup. Finally, Sam Kaegi chipped in a jumper to push the lead back to 9, and West could not get any closer.
"Our reserves really came in and did a great job for us," said Laihinen who finished with a game-high 19 points. "We had some guys in foul trouble but they came right in and played well."
Domenoski scored a team-high 17 points to lead the way for West.
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