Grafton girls’ trio leads NSC hoops honors

Aleknavicius named to second team for second straight season; Port’s Merow is recognized again


Ozaukee Press staff

She scored more points, grabbed more rebounds and dished out more assists than she did last season, and that helped Grafton High School junior Sarah Aleknavicius secure a spot on the North Shore Conference second team for the second straight year.

“Progress is being made. She is moving in the right direction,” coach Matt D’Amato said.

Aleknavicius was one of three Black Hawks honored. Junior Savannah James was chosen for the third team, and senior Gracie McNabb received honorable mention. Aleknavicius and James also each received all-state honorable mention in Division 2 from the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association.

Aleknavicius, a guard/wing with several Division 2 college offers, was a versatile threat on both sides of the court. She led the Hawks in points with 11.8 per game on 127-240 shooting (52%) from the field. She went 28-for-73 on three-pointers (38.4%), was second on the team with 4.9 rebounds per game, first in assists with 3.4 per game, tied for first in steals with 1.5 per game and was fourth in the NSC in blocks with 1.2 per game.

“She kind of did it all, not to mention guarding the best players on most of the teams we played,” D’Amato said.

“She may not have scored 18 points a game but when you score 12 points a game and you’re defending the best players and holding them under their average...”

Late in the season, Aleknavicius held Slinger’s Mallory Hoitink, Homestead’s Madison Fitzgibbon and Hartford’s Mackenzie Christian — all first-team players — under their scoring averages.

“Defensively she can disrupt some things, and offensively not only can she score, she can see the floor,” D’Amato said.

While Aleknavicius regularly filled the stat sheet, she also did things that don’t get marked down, such as deflections and disruptions, D’Amato said.

Sometimes, Aleknavicius’ scoring was kept down because her ball-handling skills and height — 5 feet, 11 inches — landed her in the back court helping the Hawks break the press since she could pass over the defense.

On offense, Aleknavicius could slice through the lane from both sides of the court.

“I think she’s getting a little more confident going to the basket,” D’Amato said.

James, a junior shooting guard with one Division 1 college offer, was second on the team with 11.5 points per game, going 106-for-272 (28.4%), including 54-197 on three-pointers (27.4%).

“She is one of the most lethal shooters in the conference. She definitely has the confidence to let it fly,” D’Amato said, adding James’ shot selection has improved.

James could light up the scoreboard in bunches. She poured in seven points in less than two minutes late in the season to give the Hawks a halftime lead at Hartford, then scored seven points in 90 seconds to get the Hawks back in the game against Cedarburg in a sectional semifinal.

James grabbed 114 rebounds — she was second on the team with 4.4 per game — with 111 on the defensive end.

“She was a lot more physical, a lot better at positioning,” D’Amato said.

James’ focus on defense didn’t allow her to crash the offensive boards.

“On offense, we put a premium that we have somebody back to stop transition,” D’Amato said.

James missed the start of the season due to a knee injury, but once she started to get her rhythm back and let the game come to her, D’Amato said, her rebounding and assists went up while her turnovers went down. She averaged 1.9 assists per game.

McNabb, a guard who will play for Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon next season, was third on the Hawks in scoring with 8.9 points per game, shooting 79-for-222 (35.6%) and 55-for-157 on three-pointers (35%). She had 3.7 rebounds per game and tied for second on the team in assists with 2.1 per game.

“I was really happy to see that with the effort she puts in all over the floor. That was awesome,” D’Amato said of McNabb’s recognition.

Two coaches at the all-conference meeting pointed out two of McNabb’s performances, he said. She scored 22 points against Port Washington at the Fiserv Forum, going 5-for-8 on three-pointers, and she drained six second-half three-pointers in a win at Hartford late in the season.

“She singlehandedly helped us win that game against Hartford and had the big game at the Fiserv Forum when the lights were on,” D’Amato said.

Besides her shooting, McNabb filled vital roles for the Hawks.

“We wouldn’t be where we were without her, the defense and straight-up positivity she brought. We needed her,” D’Amato said.

Grafton finished 12-5 in the NSC, one game behind third-place Hartford, and 17-10 overall. The Hawks won a regional title for the first time since 2010 and lost in the sectional semifinal.

For Port Washington, sophomore Lillian Merow (6 feet, 2 inches tall) led the league in blocks with 2.1 per game and led her team in scoring with 10.3 points per game, shooting 61.9%, as well as rebounds at 7.4 per game, earning her a spot on the third team.

“It was awesome to see, especially after being honorable mention last year,” coach Jakub Wahl said.

He chalked up some of Merow’s success to “just being a year older and gaining more maturity, being able to put herself in a position to be able to score.”

Merow’s biggest improvement, Wahl said, was her passing. She was unselfish and kicked the ball out to guards for three-pointers.

On defense, Merow was a force. When she wasn’t blocking shots, she was altering them.

“It’s always great to be able to have that protection down there,” Wahl said. “It was just a great year all around from that end. She’ll be able to continue to flourish in that role.”

Her biggest game came against Whitefish Bay late in the season. Merow scored 20 points on 9-for-13 shooting and snagged 16 rebounds.

Merow has a good attitude, Wahl said, and he is looking forward to her growth over the next two years.

“I’m sure she’s motivated to take that jump,” he said.

Port finished 5-13 and in eight place of 10 teams in the NSC and 10-15 overall, its best record in more than a decade.

The NSC first team had four of the same players as last season, with Cedarburg’s Claire Diener the one missing since she graduated.

Homestead’s Madison Fitzgibbon repeated as Conference Player of the Year, this season sharing the honor with Hartford’s Makena Christian. Homestead won the league with an 18-0 record.



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