The Cedarburg girls basketball team successfully created some separation in the North Shore Conference standings with a 50-45 win over host Nicolet on Friday night.
The Bulldogs improved to 4-1 in conference play and 5-2 overall to sit atop the conference with Whitefish Bay. The Knights dropped to 4-4 overall and 3-2 in conference play. All three were tied entering Friday’s contests.
The Knights overcame a shaky start and early 7-2 deficit to tie the game at 13 after the first quarter. Senior guard Michelle Peltz put the Knights ahead 15-13 in the second, and the Knights appeared to be gaining momentum. Nicolet senior guard Sara Travia scored 10 of Nicolet’s 17 second-quarter points, including a long two-point jumper from the baseline with just seconds left in the half on a textbook drive-and-dish from senior forward Briana Gray. The Knights led 30-23 at the break.
“I thought we played a good first half,” Bulldogs head coach David Ross said. “They made some incredible shots. Instead of being down by seven, I thought it was a pretty even game. It’s hard to duplicate the shooting that they were doing.”
Facing their biggest deficit of the night at 32-23, the Bulldogs rallied late in the third quarter and regained a 35-34 lead on sophomore Kendall Lynch’s two free throws.
Lynch tied Travia with a game-high 16 points.
“I think we got tired,” Knights’ head coach Rick DeKeyser said “I saw that we slowed down defensively and mentally. I don’t have a lot of girls I can put in the game right now. I have to sub when I can, use timeouts lately. When Cedarburg went to the man defense, it just wore us down.”
Nicolet would regain the lead several times in a back-and-forth battle, but Cedarburg’s post play took a toll on the more experienced but undersized Knights in the closing minutes. The Bulldogs reached their biggest lead of the night at 45-40 with just over 2 minutes to play when Gray connected from beyond the arch to pull Nicolet within two.
Trailing 48-45 with 13 seconds left, Nicolet called timeout to set-up a game-tying three-point attempt.
Ross said the Bulldogs had one objective: keep the ball away from Travia and Gray.
“We were switching,” Ross said. “We really didn’t want Gray or no. 12 to get the shot. We noticed earlier in the game some of their other players didn’t want to shoot, so we knew it would be a tougher shot for one of them.”
It was a prudent plan, considering DeKeyser’s designed play.
“We were trying to set up Sara and [Briana] on the in-bounds play,” he said.
Instead, Peltz got the open look – and came awfully close to connecting. The shot rimmed in and out, and Nicolet was forced to foul with seconds left.
“Michelle’s made threes,” DeKeyser said. “It was a good shot. We wanted the other two to take the shot, but it was a good shot.”
The Bulldogs missed both ensuing free throws, giving Nicolet three seconds and one last chance, but the inbounds pass was intercepted at midcourt, sealing the Bulldogs victory.
“It’s our first win here in awhile,” said Ross, whose team has just one senior. “I think the coaches were more excited than the girls. They were in seventh grade when we were used to just getting killed by Nicolet over and over.”
Along with Lynch, Cedarburg’s Kylee Marks and Tori Riechers chipped in with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Gray also reached double figured for Nicolet with 13.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Ross said. “A lot of these kids have already played a year on varsity. I know we’re young, but we like to say this is their second year on varsity. They should be able to make plays.”
Nicolet next visits Arrowhead on Thursday, while Cedarburg hosts Greendale in the opening round of its own tournament on the same night.
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