One day after visiting site of classic basketball movie, Grafton boys embrace underdog role on way to Indiana tournament title
Who says there’s no magic in old sports movies?
Little more than 24 hours after practicing in the gym where many of the scenes in the popular 1986 motion picture “Hoosiers” were filmed, the Grafton boys’ basketball team capped a memorable weekend by winning an Indiana tournament last Saturday.
Coach Bob Maronde’s squad did a spirited imitation of the film’s champion Hickory Hoosiers by staging late rallies to defeat two foes at the Cadet Holiday Invitational in Clayton, Ind., including a 47-43 victory over Lake Station Edison in the title game.
Just hours before, Grafton came from behind to stun highly regarded Hagerstown, 65-57, in overtime in the semifinals.
“It was an incredible weekend, just a great trip,” Maronde said. “We had to come from behind in both games to win, and I’m not sure how we did it.”
On Saturday afternoon, Grafton overcame a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Hagerstown, which has been ranked among Indiana’s top Class 2A teams this season. Still drained from the emotional victory, the Black Hawks came out flat against Lake Station in the enveing and found themselves trailing, 34-23, after three periods.
“We played very poorly for three quarters. Physically and emotionally, I wasn’t sure we had anything left,” Maronde said.
But as they dug down, the Hawks stepped up their defense and began clicking offensively.
“We took care of our business, moved the ball and got Lake Station in foul trouble,” Maronde said. “We started making free throws and got ourselves back in it.”
After pulling within three points with two minutes left, Grafton gained possession and called a timeout. On an inbounds play, the ball ended up in the hands of Tyler Howard, whose three-point basket tied the game.
The Hawks then scored off a Lake Station turnover, grabbing the lead for good during an improbable 24-9 run in the final period.
“We scored more points in the fourth quarter than we did in the first three,” Maronde said. “The kids were tired and knew it would be tough, but they showed a lot of heart.”
Grafton’s balanced scoring attack included 12 points apiece by guard Will Birch and forward Logan Hilgart and 10 from guard Nate Koehler.
Lake Station (4-2) was led by Dwayne Haden’s nine points.
Equally impressive was Grafton’s upset win over a tall, athletic Hagerstown team. The underdog Hawks held a 24-20 halftime lead only to have the Tigers roar back with a 22-8 run in the third quarter.
“They came out really hard and attacked the basket,” Maronde said. “We also had trouble against their 2-3 zone defense.”
Facing a 42-32 deficit entering the final period, Grafton finally got the ball inside against the zone. Sophomore Luke Benzschawel sparked the rally with strong front-line play that gave him a team-high 15 points.
The Hawks drew even in the closing minutes and had a chance to win the game in regulation. After calling time with 23 seconds, they had Birch drive inside, but his buzzer-beating bank shot missed.
Grafton’s surge continued in overtime, when it grabbed a four-point lead. Koehler’s three-pointer pushed the margin to seven points, and Hagerstown was unable to recover.
“We showed a lot of poise, moved the ball extremely well and got a lot of open looks,” Maronde said.
“Our depth really helped us. Hagerstown went seven players deep, and we played 11. I think we wore them down.”
Besides Benzschawel’s effort, Grafton got 10 points apiece from Birch and Alex Teich, nine from Choo Weisflog and eight from Bryan Sternig.
Hagerstown (4-2) was led by Bryan Mathews’ 19 points. Thorin Stage added 15 points.
In addition to the Hawks’ varsity team, Grafton’s traveling contingent on the weekend trip to Indiana included the junior-varsity and freshman squads. Many of the players’ family members also made the trip.
On Friday, the group visited the former gym in Knightstown that was used as the Hickory Huskers’ home court in “Hoosiers.” Members of all three Grafton teams posed for photos wearing replica Hickory jerseys, and the varsity and JV squads practiced in the gym.
To help prepare the players for the trip, Maronde rented the Rivoli Theatre in Cedarburg for a private screening of the movie early last week.
“It was quite an experience, a lot for everyone to take in,” said Maronde, who came up with the idea of a Hoosiers-themed trip after learning the gym was available for use the same weekend as the Clayton tournament.
“I think the kids felt really good about it, and being able to win the tournament the way we did meant a lot.”
Image Information: Grafton guard Will Birch scored 22 points in the tournament. Photo by Sam Arendt