On the right side of learning how to win

Grafton boys pull out tight game against conference opponent after high-flying loss on the road
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

The young Grafton High School boys’ basketball team that’s learning how to finish games ended up on both sides of the coin in hotly contested contests last week.

Last Friday at home, the Black Hawks edged Hartford, 62-59, nearly squandering a 10-point halftime lead.

With less than 10 seconds left and the Hawks hanging onto a 59-56 lead, Michael McNabb Jr. caught an Orioles’ pass near the free throw line and outraced everyone down court for a layup while being fouled.

The ball sat on the right side of the rim for seemingly hours as fans clung to the edge of their seats before it fell through the hoop.

McNabb, who has been a stellar free throw shooter, made the 15-footer to make it 62-56 with 5.5 seconds left.

Oriole Bryce Duhr hit a three-pointer with .8 seconds left, and a long Hawks’ inbounds pass let the clock run out.

On the game-sealing play, Grafton coach Damon James said McNabb “was scrambling, kind of out of position and was at the right place at the right time.”

The team did just enough to finish this one off.

“They’re learning how to win — up 10 to 12 points and just that understanding how to win, understanding how to not let up once you’re up. It was just good to be on the winning side,” James said.

The Hawks held from a one-point to seven-point lead in the final eight minutes. As soon as the Orioles would get close, the Hawks would pull away just a little.

When the Orioles closed to 50-49 with less than six minutes left, Hawk Luke Norgard drained a clutch three-pointer from the corner — his only points of the night — with 4 minutes, 44 seconds left to bring the lead back to four.

“Luke Norgard came off the bench and had a huge corner three,” James said.

After the score closed to 55-53, freshman point guard Juan Guererro Hernandez Jr. did a spin move in the lane for a bucket.

After the lead tightened to 57-56 with less than a minute left, the Hawks passed the ball around for 30 seconds before Matthew Zabel hit a shot inside.

James is going deeper on his bench and has been pleased with the results.

“What we always tell guys is just be ready when your time is called. I think for the most part everybody is doing a nice job,” he said.

The Hawks got off to a better start than usual as well in building a 35-25 halftime edge.

“Just the energy and urgency was there from the start. It wasn’t where we were spotting teams 10 to 15 points and trying to claw our way back,” James said.

McNabb had 22 points on 10-for-12 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. Guererro Hernandez had 18. Zabel had eight points and five rebounds, and Chase Norton scored six points.

The Hawks put out a similar effort in an 87-78 loss at North Shore Conference-leading Homestead on Jan. 11.

They were up, 38-36, at halftime and with two and a half minutes left were down, 73-71, before the Highlanders pulled away due to a few missed defensive assignments, James said.

But the coach was impressed.

“Our guys came with great energy and urgency, and I think they played their best basketball of the year,” he said.

McNabb scored a game-high 37 points on 5-for-10 shooting. He went 5-for-7 on three-pointers and 12-for-14 on free throws. He also had five rebounds and four assists.

Bennett Hildebrand had 15 points, going 3-for-5 on three-pointers. Norton had eight points and five rebounds.

“I think that propelled us on Friday,” James said of the effort.

Tim Franks had 36 points for the Highlanders on 10-for-11 shooting and went 13-for-15 on free throws. Chris Dujrasovic had 17 points and Adam Riese had 15.

The Hawks, 6-7 overall and 4-5 in the NSC, host West Bend West (1-8 NSC) on Friday. On Saturday, Grafton hosts three games in the Halli Lannan Memorial Showcase. At 1 p.m., Kenosha Tremper plays Milwaukee Riverside. At 3 p.m., Grafton plays Lake Country Lutheran, and at 5 p.m. Racine Case plays Whitnall. Proceeds go to the Halli Lannan Memorial Scholarship. For more information, visit www.krausefuneralhome.com/obituary/halli-nicole-herling-stewart-lannan.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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