Sans best players, Grafton still wins

Tight defense and some free throws when needed topples West Bend East

GRAFTON FRESHMAN ELLA DAY scored four points in helping the Black Hawks’ to a 41-33 victory over North Shore Conference opponent West Bend East last Friday. Photo by Mitch Maersch
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

Bench players often see time when games are out of hand, but last Friday the Grafton High School girls’ basketball team needed to go deep when it mattered most.

With star senior guard Hannah Belanger, who is expected to set the school’s all-time girls’ scoring mark this season, nursing an ankle injury, the Black Hawks had a hole to fill.

That would have been usually taken by senior point guard Hailey Block, but the soccer star was playing the world’s most popular game in a warmer climate.

That left no seniors to lead the Hawks, causing coach Mike Grzesiak to adjust strategy accordingly.

“I told them nobody needs to put it all on their back. We can all do just a little bit more and I think we’ll be fine, which is pretty indicative of what we did here,” he said in referencing a balanced scoring attack.

The Hawks jumped out to a 21-10 halftime lead against North Shore Conference foe West Bend East and withstood a Suns’ run and barrage of missed free throws to hang on for a 41-33 victory.

Lexi Hilgart led the team with 12 points. Mya Masse scored eight and Julia Place had six. Morgan Ruona and Ella Day each had four.

It was Ruona, a sophomore guard, who made a big free throw and key play down the stretch. With less than a minute left, the Hawks were clinging to a 35-31 lead. They scored one point in the last seven minutes — a Ruona free throw that stopped a run of six misses — in which time the Suns netted 11 points to steal all the momentum.

But Ruona stole it back, stepping in front of a Sun near mid-court on an inbounds pass. Day later got fouled and made both her free throws in the double bonus to extend the lead to 37-31.

Sun Auburn Larson, who led all scorers with 15 points, hit a shot inside to cut the deficit to four, but Place answered to make it 39-33 with 15 seconds left. Masse hit two free throws with 1.8 seconds left for the final tally.

“Ella knocks down some big free throws there, Morgan makes a big steal. It was good to get some confidence up on those girls,” Grzesiak said.

The Hawks improved to 2-1 in the North Shore Conference and overall. East went to 0-4 in the NSC and 2-4 overall.

What the Hawks lacked in missing Belanger’s 24.5 points per game in the first two contests this season they made up for with defense, holding the Suns to 12-for-38 from the field and 1-for-12 on three-pointers.

“I thought our defense was very good in the first half. Outside of a breakdown here or there on defense, it was the best defense we played all year,” Grzesiak said.

Up by as many as 14 in the second half — it was 34-20 with 8:07 to play — Grzesiak slowed down the offense, spreading out players and waiting for one to head to the basket if she got a look.

The Suns, in the meantime, were scrambling to get back into the game.

“With a young team and girls who have never been in this position before, I kind of expected it. You just have to weather the storm,” Grzesiak said.

“We’ve got to learn with Hannah and Hailey not being around occasionally.”

They could have easily iced the contest at the line.

“If we make those five or six free throws, it’s not a game,” Grzesiak said.

West Bend West 55, Grafton 47

Three-fourths of a solid game wasn’t quite enough for the Hawks on Nov. 27.

Belanger scored 28 points and Block eight, but the Spartans had four players with at least nine points. Bella Baker had 17, and Lauren Downs had 14. Julia Buettner had 11, and Aaliyah Moore had nine.

“We played three quarters of a game well, and toward the end it kind of got away from us. We had to foul and they made their free throws,” Grzesiak said.

The Spartans went 15-for-21 at the line, while the Hawks went 6-for-8. Grzesiak said he would like his team to get to the free-throw line more often.

Grafton plays at Homestead (2-1 NSC) on Thursday and hosts Whitefish Bay (3-0) on Tuesday, Dec. 11. On Friday, Dec. 14, the Hawks play at Nicolet (2-2).

Port Washington falls to 0-3

Port Washington last Friday lost to Whitefish Bay, 62-13.

The Pirates only managed two points in the second half, to Bay’s 27.

Ellie Clements led eight Blue Dukes who scored with 27 points. Elena Deslongchamps had 12.

Kaytlin Kassens led Port with six points.

The Pirates play at Nicolet on Friday, at Cedarburg on Tuesday, Dec. 11, and at Hartford on Friday, Dec. 14.

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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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