Tight pressure, deliberate pace help Blue Dukes edge Grafton girls in showdown
It was a night when sharp shooters played second fiddle to hustling defenders.
And it was ultimately a disappointing night for the Grafton girls’ basketball team, which went chin to chin with Whitefish Bay before bowing, 28-24, in a North Shore Conference tussle last Friday.GRAFTON’S HANNAH EICHLER tried to pull away from a Whitefish Bay defender during a North Shore Conference game last Friday. Photo by Sam Arendt
Although host Grafton held the talented Blue Dukes to their lowest scoring output of the season, it wasn’t enough to prevail in a game where scoring chances were few and far between.
“The defense was incredibly intense. It was hard for anyone to get an open look,” said Grafton coach Bob Maronde, whose team took an 18-15 lead into the fourth quarter only to be outscored, 13-6, the rest of the way.
Bay, which improved to 5-0 in NSC play and 9-0 overall, set the mood for the night by running a patient flex offense that regularly chewed up 30-plus seconds per possession.
“There were some possessions where we played defense for a full minute without a shot being taken,” Maronde said. “I thought our kids did a great job of defending that, but it took a lot out of us.”
Grafton cashed in enough on limited scoring chances to stay ahead most of the game. Hannah Eichler provided most of the offensive spark on her way to a team-high eight points.
Despite the snail’s pace, the Hawks (3-2) threatened to pull away early in the second half. They owned an 18-11 lead but settled for two quick shots that missed, leading to two Bay baskets.
“That was one of the turning points in the game, I thought,” Maronde said. “We just rushed the offense and it cost us four points, which was crucial in a game like this.”
With the game tied in the fourth quarter, Bay continued to run its deliberate offense, which produced two easy baskets when the Hawks went for steals. Staked to a four-point lead, the Dukes were then content to draw fouls and convert free throws as they pulled away.
“Offensively, we could have attacked them more off the dribble,” Maronde said. “We did that early in the game but got away from it in the second half.
“We did have some good looks, but it was one of those games where the shots just didn’t go down.”
Lyndsey Agnew had 11 points to lead Bay, which also got nine from Elisabeth Johnston.
The loss, which dropped Grafton to 6-3 overall, left it two games behind co-leaders Bay and Nicolet in the conference race. However, Maronde wasn’t disheartened by his team’s effort or its place in the standings.
“It was a great effort by our girls, and there is a long way to go,” he said. “I think this group is just going to keep getting better.”
This week, Grafton faced Hartford in a nonconference game Tuesday and will host Milwaukee Lutheran in a 7:30 p.m. NSC contest Friday.