GRAFTON GUARD Jake Wilde was determined to drove past Whitefish Bay’s Paul Anton during the teams’ North Shore Conference game last Friday. Host Grafton rallied to win, 51-45, and score its first league victory since 2007. Photo by Sam Arendt
Grafton boys’ team finds new lease on basketball life after stunning Bay to end 60-game league losing skid
The sun has finally risen for the Black Hawks.
It took four years, but the Grafton boys’ basketball team found its name on the winning side of a North Shore Conference box score at last, thanks to a come-from-behind effort against Whitefish Bay last Friday.
The Hawks’ home victory — which snapped a 60-game skid dating back to January 2007 — came in the form of a 51-45 upset over the second-place Blue Dukes, who defeated Grafton by 22 points earlier this season.
“It’s a great night to be a Black Hawk,” said Grafton coach Kevin McKenna, whose squad overcame a one-point deficit with an 18-11, fourth-quarter run that kept fans on their feet.
“We got some excellent performances from Scotty Tyler and Robbie Doring, but it really was a great team effort. The kids never stopped playing hard and never stopped believing they could win.”
Tyler, a sophomore forward, poured in a game-high 23 points, including a trio of three-point baskets and an 8-for-11 effort on free throws. Doring, a junior guard, added 14 points.
McKenna, whose team improved to 1-9 in NSC play and 5-13 overall, was quick to praise other players, including guards C.J. Koehler, Jake Wilde and Kevin Collins and forwards Nick Scherzer and Beau Benzschawel.
“They all contributed,” he said. “Nick Scherzer grabbed a lot of key rebounds, and Koehler, Wilde and Collins all played well. Benzschawel (a freshman) gave us some solid minutes.”
Bay, which began the night with a 7-3 conference mark, got off to a slow start against Grafton’s aggressive defense and trailed, 25-18, at halftime. The Dukes returned the favor with a 16-8 run in the third quarter to take a 34-33 lead into the final eight minutes, but the Hawks were not to be denied.
“We were very disciplined and stuck to our game plan,” McKenna said. “I looked at the kids in the huddle before the fourth quarter and told them we were right there and to go out and win it.”
After jumping back ahead early in the final period, the Hawks maintained a four or five-point lead the rest of the way. They finished the game 13-for-18 at the free-throw line, a 72% effort that helped snuff out Bay’s comeback hopes.
“It was mostly a two or three-possession game for Bay in the fourth quarter, which meant we were staying in control,” McKenna said.
Grafton’s strong defensive effort held the Dukes well below their 60-point game average. McKenna singled out Collins for his work on high-scoring forward Ron Patten, who had 11 points but was the only Bay player to reach double figures.
Before Friday, Grafton’s last conference win was a 70-61 victory over Cedarburg on Jan. 2, 2007. This season, the Hawks have had several close calls, including a 47-46 loss to Port Washington on Jan. 21 and a 50-48 loss to Milwaukee Lutheran on Feb. 8.
Amid Friday’s post-game revelry, Grafton players, coaches and fans finally had a chance to exhale.
“It’s a huge relief to everybody,” McKenna said. “The crowd was crazy, and everyone wanted this so badly. The outpouring of support has been incredible.”
The Hawks were scheduled to continue NSC play this week, facing Milwaukee Lutheran on Tuesday and first-place Germantown on the road Friday. On Feb. 22, they will travel to Cedarburg to make up a game postponed Feb. 1.
All contests start at 7:30 p.m.
Wayland Academy 46, Grafton 45
A game-high 28 points by Tyler couldn’t save the Hawks in a nonconference home loss Feb. 9.
Grafton jumped ahead, 15-10, in the first quarter but was outscored, 22-16, in the next two periods. Wayland played the Hawks on even terms, 14-14, in the fourth quarter.
John Moran led the Big Red with 16 points, and Michael Vaubel added 14.
Milwaukee Lutheran 50, Grafton 48
A buzzer-beating layup gave Lutheran the last word in a hard-fought NSC makeup game Feb. 8.
Grafton held a 19-17 lead at halftime, but the Red Knights rallied to take a 35-34 lead after three periods.
The Hawks used a balanced scoring attack to stay in contention, led by Tyler and Koehler with 14 points apiece. Doring added 10 points.
Garrett Wenzelburger paced Lutheran with 19 points.