Grafton girls find enough focus in first game after player’s death to down scrappy Port Washington
Basketball is a tough enough game to play without having to do so with a heavy heart.
Even so, the Grafton girls’ team tackled both challenges when it took to the court at Port Washington High School last Friday — and earned better than passing grades in the process.PORT WASHINGTON GUARD Caity Tydick tried to escape the defensive pressure applied by Grafton’s Hanneh Eichler (left) and Kim Schacht. Photo by Sam Arendt
“It was such a difficult game. It was so tough to stay focused,” Grafton coach Bob Maronde said of his squad’s 44-26 win over the host Pirates.
“We put together some incredible runs, but other times it was like our players were in a fog, which was understandable.”
The Black Hawks’ lapses came in their first game following the death of Grafton boys’ basketball player Josh Davis-Joiner, who collapsed at practice and died Monday night.
Davis-Joiner, a senior, was remembered during a series of tributes Friday, including long ovations from a standing-room-only Grafton crowd and respectful Port fans who cheered players from both sides throughout a coed doubleheader.
The Port girls, who began the night with an eight-game losing streak, did their best to pull off the North Shore Conference upset of the season.
Despite Grafton’s aggressive defense, the Pirates stayed within striking distance for most of the first three quarters. After trailing, 19-11, at halftime, Port ran off the first seven points of the third period when the Hawks’ shooting went cold.
Kelsey Steffen’s layup pulled the Pirates within 19-18 two minutes into the second half.
However, Amanda Hunt helped the Hawks regain control. The sophomore forward hit two three-pointers during an 11-3 run that capped the third quarter, including a buzzer-beating basket that gave Grafton a 30-21 lead.
When the Hawks scored the first 12 points of the fourth quarter, the mystery was over.
Hunt finished with a game-high 16 points, including four three-point hoops.
“Our kids gave a great effort. We’re continuing to work hard to get better,” said Port coach Brian Johnson, whose team fell to 0-7 in NSC play and 2-9 overall.
“In our games before this, we were only playing one good half. This time we played nearly three good quarters.”
Much of the Pirates’ offense came from senior guard Caity Tydrick, who scored half of her team-high 12 points in the third quarter.
But Port again struggled with turnovers, a season-long problem compounded by Grafton’s hard-nosed defense. When they weren’t hitting outside shots, the Hawks were able to convert fast-break opportunities off steals.
Seniors Hannah Eichler and Kim Schacht bolstered Grafton’s attack with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The result was a workmanlike victory that improved the Hawks to 8-4 overall and 5-2 in the conference, good for third place.
“Give Grafton a ton of credit for how they played,” Johnson said. “That was tremendous under the circumstances.”
Maronde was also satisfied with a victory that paled next to the tragic loss of a teen whose life ended much too soon.
“I was pleased with how the girls came out and how they did their best to try and focus on the game,” he said.
Both teams were scheduled to return to the court this week, starting with Port facing Waukesha North in a nonconference game Tuesday.
In North Shore contests Friday, the Pirates will host Milwaukee Lutheran while Grafton hosts Cedarburg. On Jan. 31, both local teams will again be at home, with Port facing Homestead and Grafton taking on Germantown.
All games start at 7:30 p.m.