Comeback in tight loss to Thomas More underscores determination of improved Grafton boys’ basketball team
A wake-up call arrived a bit too late for the Grafton boys’ basketball team in its final game before Christmas.
After a lackluster first half marred by defensive breakdowns, the host Black Hawks regrouped to give Thomas More a fight but fell short, 45-41, in a nonconference game Dec. 22.TIGHT PRESSURE by a Thomas More defender didn’t keep Grafton’s Josh Davis-Joiner from driving to the basket. Photo by Sam Arendt
“We had a nice comeback, but the first half wasn’t very good,” said Grafton coach Kevin McKenna, whose team trailed, 29-24, at intermission after More forward Trevor Wattawa scored 16 of his game-high 24 points.
“We had trouble staying with their flex offense. When we went to a zone and tried some different defenses, we stayed with them.”
The Hawks, who allowed just 16 points in the second half, positioned themselves for a comeback win by pulling within 37-35 by the end of the third period. However, they managed just six points in the fourth quarter.
Grafton had several chances to tie the game in the closing minutes but misfired each time.
“With two minutes left, we had two or three really good looks but couldn’t hit one,” McKenna said.
In contrast to the Cavaliers’ Wattawa-led offense, the Hawks relied on a three-pronged scoring attack.
Scotty Tyler set the pace with 14 points, and Robbie Doring and Mitchell Kurz had 12 and 11, respectively. Kurz, a junior, had half of the Hawks’ six three-point baskets.
McKenna also singled out point guard Jake Wilde, who had only one basket but provided steady floor leadership.
“Robbie and Jake both had very good games,” he said. “At one point, Jake pulled himself out and told me to give Mitchell a chance because he was shooting well. I really respect him for the unselfish way he put his team first.”
As disappointing as the first half was, McKenna was impressed with his team’s resilience.
“We showed some composure and made some adjustments,” he said. “We worked on a lot of ball swings in the second half, which limited the number of fast-break opportunities we were giving up.”
The loss left Grafton with a 4-4 overall record entering this week’s Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook Shootout at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon.
The Hawks were scheduled to face Oshkosh Lourdes on Tuesday and Burlington Catholic Central on Wednesday.
Grafton 60, Nicolet 35
The Hawks blistered the Knights with a 30-9 run during the second and third quarters of an easy North Shore Conference victory at home Dec. 20.
After grabbing a 19-12 lead by the end of the first period, Grafton steadily pulled away and took a 49-21 advantage into the fourth quarter. The win evened the Hawks’ NSC record at 2-2.
“We came out with great defensive intensity,” McKenna said. “Anytime you hold a team to nine points for two quarters, you are doing a job.”
Tyler, a junior forward, had a game-high 17 points for the Hawks, who had 10 players score. Kurz and Caleb Keshemberg each added nine points.
McKenna praised senior guard Josh Davis-Joiner, who had six points and “played great defense.”
“Josh doesn’t get a lot of publicity, but he really deserves some credit. When he came in the first quarter, he changed the game with his defense,” McKenna said.
The top scorer for Nicolet (0-4) was Carmelo Holt with seven points.
Grafton’s next game will be Friday, Jan. 6, when it travels to Whitefish Bay for a 7:30 p.m. conference contest.