2019 off to a fast start

Grafton girls blow by Hartford in league battle

GRAFTON’S MORGAN RUONA went up for a rebound against Hartford last Friday night. The Hawks cruised to a North Shore Conference victory, 61-29. Photo by Mitch Maersch
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

Call it a New Year’s resolution. Call it an overmatched opponent.

Whatever the label, the Grafton High School girls’ basketball team got off to a hot start for the first time this season and took it to Hartford at home last Friday.

The Black Hawks hit two three-pointers early and never trailed in a 61-29 drubbing of their North Shore Conference opponent, moving them to 5-3 and in the upper half of the 10-team league.

Guard Julia Place drained a three-pointer 23 seconds into the game, and forward Lexi Hilgart hit one a minute later that gave the Hawks a 6-2 lead.

The closest the Orioles got was 6-5 the rest of the way.

“Once I hit my three I think we all kind of got excited and we were just like going at it. We had a groove going,” Place said.

The Hawks had struggled in the opening few minutes of games, but not on Friday.

“Before the game we said, new year, new us,” senior point guard Hailey Block said.

After giving up a couple of offensive rebounds early, the Hawks either held the Orioles to one shot or forced turnovers during a seven-minute 12-0 run in the first half to pull away. It was 37-14 by the break.

“I just think we had the mentality that we had to come out strong right away and shut them down right away,” Hilgart said.

Defensive intensity has been a common theme all season long.

“Defense is always our focus because we know that’s our strength. We just wanted to stay up the line and get as many steals and keep the cuts limited so that they wouldn’t score,” guard Morgan Ruona said.

Communication was a key in that effort.

“We were all talking, making sure we knew where everyone was on the court, which helped a lot,” Place said.

Senior guard Hannah Belanger, the leading girls’ scorer in school history, netted 33 points, going 5-for-9 on three-pointers and 6-for-6 on free throws.

“We knew we were going to have looks on the outside. Julia and Lexi hit the first two threes and I think that really set the momentum for the game,” Belanger said.

Hilgart scored nine points on 3-for-6 on three-pointers. The Hawks shot 10-for-25 from behind the arc.

Coach Mike Grzesiak hadn’t seen that type of play from his team early in games this season.

“I really liked the way we played defensively in the half court. That’s the first time we’ve done it all year and played like that after made baskets,” he said.

The Hawks held the Orioles’ leading scorer Maddy Sieczkowski to six points, half of her average per game, and their second-leading scorer Maci Meyer to eight, three points below her average.

The Hawks were to host defending NSC champ Slinger on Tuesday and will play at rival Port Washington at 5:45 p.m. Friday in the first game of a girls-boys doubleheader.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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