Nicolet girls basketball team earns key victory over Grafton
Hoops squad now in three-way tie for NSC lead
Glendale - The Nicolet girls basketball team was down 12 in the first half against Grafton Friday and still the bench was on its feet cheering for each other, jumping up and yelling at each stop, or each basket.
And then they yelled some more as the Knights closed the gap to three after the third quarter and even more as they took the lead in the final stanza. Each basket by forward Briana Gray (22 points) elicited a roar as did every free throw by Sara Travia and Katherine Richter as this rebuilding Nicolet team pulled into a tie for the North Shore Conference lead with a 42-38 victory.
"I just told them late in the game that we have worked too hard to lose this game," first-year Knights' coach Rich DeKeyser said, "and they really took it to heart. … Even the refs said afterward that was a great game to work.
Strengthens team bond
"This game showed us that we can play with teams on our level. It really gave the kids a positive attitude. Instead of being a bunch of soccer and softball players (playing basketball) we really became a basketball team tonight."
The Knights, who started the week 3-1 in league play, good for a tie with Whitefish Bay and Cedarburg in the league standings, also beat Port Washington, 31-17, on Dec. 11 as their overall mark improved to 4-3. They will entertain Cedarburg in a critical league contest at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The heart Nicolet showed allowed them to overcome spotty outside shooting and uncertain depth. As the Knights were making their rally that would eventually close the gap to 26-23 at the end of three quarters, DeKeyser noted that he would have liked to have made a series of quick substitutions but noted that none of the starters wanted to come off the floor at this critical time in the game.
Gray, Lanoira Duhart, Michelle Peltz, Katherine Richter and Travia simply refused to lose, DeKeyser said, and when Richter fouled out late, her sister, Jane, took her place, doing battle against the Blackhawks difficult-to-guard post Amanda Hunt.
"Hunt had foul trouble and so we really tried to work Katherine and then Jane down low so Hunt could not be aggressive defensively," DeKeyser said. "Katherine had a great game."
Series of plays shifts game
There was no one key moment down the stretch, DeKeyser said, just a gradual series of plays.
He was also pleased with how the team adjusted mentally.
"At the beginning of the game we were just rushing everything," DeKeyser said, "and I just pulled the kids aside and told them that we had to slow things down and do things consistently and it paid off. Our defense got us turnovers and also forced them to use timeouts when they didn't want to."
DeKeyser called Gray's game a "breakout" offensively, as her St. Louis University coach was there to watch the contest. Duhart backed her up with seven.
"I gave them off today (Saturday)," DeKeyser said. "I can't say enough of how our bench supported everyone tonight. They were as important as the starters. … I just loved our heart tonight."
DeKeyser called the win over Port on Dec. 11 "beautiful defensively but ugly offensively."
The Knights were up just 19-14 at the end of three quarters but outscored the Pirates 12-3 in the final stanza to earn the victory. Gray had nine points and Duhart and Travia six each.
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