Second-half comeback can’t rescue Port boys in home-opening loss to Bay
A few things were amiss last Friday night in the Port Washington High School gymnasium.
Things like sharp free-throw shooting, crisp ball handling and foul-free defense.
Amid all the miscues that marred play for both teams, the Pirates still had a shot at a come-from-behind victory in their home opener against Whitefish Bay.
It wasn’t until Joey McIlree’s three-point attempt in the closing seconds bounced off the rim that Port was saddled with a 55-52 loss in a tense North Shore Conference game.
The Pirates trailed, 37-20, early in the second half before launching a long, steady rally. They pulled within 53-52 on two free throws by Luke Schueller with 21 seconds left, but a turnover helped derail the comeback.
“Turnovers really hurt us. That’s been a big problem all season so far,” said Port coach John Bunyan, whose team fell to 1-2 in NSC play and 2-4 overall.
“We may be playing a bit too fast. We’ve just got to do a better job of protecting the ball.”
The shaky ball handling was the chief cause of the Pirates’ big deficit. After trailing, 29-20, at halftime, they came out cold and saw Bay score the first eight points of the third quarter.
Three-point baskets by Ron Patten and Kelin Johnson sparked the Blue Dukes’ third-period flurry.
After a timeout, the Pirates finally started clicking. They outscored Bay, 14-2, in the final five minutes of the quarter to pull within 39-34 entering the fourth period.
The teams traded points throughout the final eight minutes, with Port slicing its deficit to 52-50 with 40 seconds left on a basket by Shane Kennedy.
Although the Pirates had three chances to pull even, their possessions ended in a missed layup, turnover and McIlree’s errant three-pointer.
Port struggled at the free-throw line, making just 17 of 28 attempts (61%). Bay was even worse, shooting 53% (16 of 30).
Both teams committed 22 fouls.
Kennedy, a senior forward, and Sawyer Mosley, a junior guard, shared team-high scoring honors with 16 points.
Patten had 17 points to lead Bay (1-2 in the conference, 2-5 overall), and Jamie Schneck added 12.
Despite the mistakes, Bunyan was impressed with his players’ determination in a hard-fought game.“They did a tremendous job of coming back,” he said. “They’re playing good defense.
“We’ve got to be stronger handling the ball, but it will come. It’s going to get better.”
Port Washington 52, Nicolet 49
The Pirates used a fourth-quarter rally to pull out a conference road win Dec. 14.
Trailing, 42-40, after three periods, Port outscored the Knights, 12-7, in the final eight minutes.
Mosley sparked the Pirates with a game-high 16 points, including a trio of three-point baskets. Joey Burbach added 12 points.
Nicolet got 10 points apiece from Corey Smith and Raheem Lemons.
Port will host Appleton West in a 7:30 p.m. nonconference game Thursday.
The Pirates will then participate in a four-team holiday tournament at Middleton High School on Dec. 29 and 30 before resuming conference play Jan. 4 at home against Milwaukee Lutheran.