Guererro Hernandez Jr. shows out in showcase

Grafton boys blow a late lead to Martin Luther but pull out victory in overtime on a special night

JUAN GUERERRO HERNANDEZ JR. (above right) drove the lane under pressure from Martin Luther’s Alex Thomas (32) and Milan Tayler on Saturday in the Halli Lannan Memorial Basketball Showcase in Grafton. Above left, Black Hawks Tommy Lutz (standing) and Jaiye Famakinwa sandwiched a Spartan to force a jump ball with nine second left in regulation. Grafton won, 73-72, in overtime. Photos by Mitch Maersch Photos in body: (Photo Top)) MICHAEL MCNABB JR. hit this game-tying layup over Martin Luther’s Demerius Shakur in the final seconds in Grafton on Saturday. Photo by Mitch Maersch (Bottom) GRAFTON’S JUAN GUERERRO HERNANDEZ JR. accepted the award for Player of the Game in the second annual Halli Lannan Memorial Showcase on Saturday. Guererro Hernandez was flanked by Grafton Athletic Director Kevin Moore (left) and coach Damon James. Photo by Mitch Maersch

By MITCH MAERSCH

Ozaukee Press staff

Holding leads and finishing games has been a challenge for the Grafton High School boys’ basketball team, and the trend continued Saturday against Martin Luther.

Only this time, after squandering a nine-point lead with less than six minutes to play, the Black Hawks hit a last-second shot to force overtime and survived a missed buzzer-beater to pull out a 73-72 nail-biter in one of four games in the second annual Halli Lannan Memorial Basketball Showcase in Grafton.

“They’re a really good team. It’s about time we win one of these that comes down to the wire,” Grafton coach Damon James said.

Clutch play came from several Hawks, but nobody was better than 6-feet, 4-inch sophomore guard Juan Guererro Hernandez Jr., who was named Player of the Game.

He had 26 points, four assists, four steals, one block and one rebound, and he did it on what he called a “messed-up ankle.” He shot 9-for-15 from the field, going 6-for-7 on three pointers. Five came in the first half to help the Hawks build a 36-28 lead.

“It feels great, especially against a tough team,” Guererro Hernandez said. “We fought through adversity. We’ve been working on that the whole year and last year. We’re building, getting better every year.”

The Spartans took back the lead late and held a 65-62 edge with 72 seconds left, causing James to call a timeout. Guererro Hernandez sliced through the lane for a basket, but Spartan Jalen Haynes, who scored his 1,000th career point in the game, hit two free throws to make it 67-64 with 35 seconds left.

After another Hawks’ timeout with 26 seconds left, junior guard Michael McNabb Jr. missed a three-pointer. Matthew Zabel grabbed the rebound, and McNabb was fouled on a two-point try. He made one of two free throws to get the Hawks to within two points with 14 seconds left.

Sophomore Tommy Lutz and senior Jaiye Famakinwa forced a jump ball with nine seconds left, and the Hawks had the arrow.

The Spartans had a foul to give and fouled McNabb with 6.4 seconds left. McNabb then took the inbounds pass from Famakinwa and hit a layup under pressure to knot the game at 67. A long, desperate Spartans’ shot was off the mark, forcing overtime.

“We were looking to just throw it up, catch them off guard right away,” McNabb said. “Jaiye made a good pass, and I finished and the rest is history in overtime.”

The Spartans took a two-point lead in the four-minute extra period, but Famakinwa gave it back to the Hawks, 72-71, with a three-pointer from the left wing.

“I knew it was good as soon as Juan passed it to me. Credit to Juan for that assist. That was a great pass,” Famakinwa said.

Haynes gave the Spartans the lead back with an offensive rebound and putback with less than a minute left.

With 36 seconds left, Lutz faked shooting a three-pointer, then flew inside for a layup for the game’s final points.

“I pump faked and the guy blew by me. I saw an open lane and I just hit the layup. It felt really good,” Lutz said.

A Haynes jumper at the buzzer bounced off the rim, and the Hawks survived.

James pumped his fist and later embraced Famakinwa as the Hawks and their coaches shared high fives.

“It feels great. God is good. It feels great. This is a hard-fought win,” Famakinwa said. “There were ups and downs. It was very back and forth, but it was good. It was a real good win.”

McNabb had 18 points, 15 rebounds and four assists. Lutz had 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting, and Famakinwa had seven points.

“It’s great. Obviously, today we’re playing for a bigger cause,” McNabb said. “It’s just great getting that win because we’ve been a team that has struggled with closing out games all year, and it shows how we battle through adversity and how we’re getting better as a unit.”

James said he liked his team’s comeback after losing the lead and momentum.

“Then it becomes mental. Mentally, can you fight the adversity? I thought we had some good moments when we were doing it and we had some moments I didn’t like that we talked about,” he said.

“But at the end of the day, we get in the locker room and they’re hugging each other. That’s what it’s about. These are young kids, still. We’re teaching them to react in pressure situations because that’s what’s going to happen in life.”

He credited Brady Eader for hitting a three-pointer off the bench, and Lutz for his clutch play.

Haynes had 22 points for the Spartans, who fell to 9-5 overall. Demerius Shakur had 17 and Perry Doris had 14.

The showcase is named after James’ late sister-in-law. Lannan died Dec. 29, 2020, from metastatic breast cancer. She was born in Racine, joined the Army and was named a Pat Tillman Scholar. She later became a teacher, working toward equity and the most marginalized students.

James started the event last year to honor her memory and promote her work with equity. A portion of the event’s proceeds go toward a scholarship in Lannan’s name.

Hawks pull out victory over Hartford

One day before the showcase, the Hawks beat North Shore Conference foe Hartford, 66-61, on the road.

McNabb had 32 points on 9-for-12 shooting, 13 rebounds, three assists and three steals. Guererro Hernandez had 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting, six rebounds and three steals. Famakinwa and Lutz each had seven points.

Hartford’s Manny Hernandez had 35 points and Zach Herrmann had 14.

Grafton loses lead, game to Homestead

The Hawks on Jan. 10 nearly knocked off NSC co-leader Homestead at home in a 66-61 loss.

The Hawks held a 33-32 halftime lead.

Guererro Hernandez had 20 points and eight rebounds. Lutz had 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting and five rebounds. McNabb had 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

“We were there. We had the lead, and we gave it up,” James said.

For Homestead, Solomon Garrison had 20 points, Tim Franks had 19 points and 12 rebounds and Trevor Polite had 10 points.

Grafton, 8-5 overall, plays at West Bend West on Friday, Jan. 20, and at Port Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

James said he hopes to get senior guard Bennett Hildebrand back this week after he sustained an ankle injury against Homestead.

NSC standings are: Homestead, 8-1; Nicolet, 8-1; Grafton, 6-3; Cedarburg, 6-3; West Bend East, 5-4; Whitefish Bay, 5-4; Hartford, 4-5; Port Washington, 2-7; Slinger, 1-8; and West Bend West, 0-9.

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