Homestead's third-quarter outburst does in Nicolet, 62-47
Highlanders display their potential
Mequon - The Homestead boys basketball team needed one good turn of events, one good push to remind itself that it was still a quality team, that all the lofty expectations heaped upon it in the pre-season were still valid despite a mixed bag of results so far this winter.
And the Highlanders got it, as they blitzed a red-hot Nicolet squad 25-4 in the third quarter last Friday to erase a 10-point halftime deficit and pull away with a surprising 62-47 victory.
That it occurred was almost surprising to coach Kevin McKenna.
"That was a long time coming," McKenna said. "It was really a tale of two halves. We didn't have a good week of practice and Wednesday and Thursday's efforts were way below average in terms of intensity and effort and it continued over into the first half on Friday."
McKenna said at that point his team had "zero passion and intensity" and "were missing zero footers."
"I told the guys at the break that I'm not sure what to tell you, but I'm not going to go crazy and yell at you," he continued. "It was something they had to figure out for themselves: How to play to the level that they're capable of. And they did it. They took ownership."
With the win, the Highlanders pulled into a tie for second in the North Shore Conference at 6-3 with Whitefish Bay and 10-7 overall.
They will put their newfound resolution to the test Friday when they visit Port Washington, and then Tuesday, when they host Grafton.
"The key is, can we bring this same intensity to Port?" McKenna asked.
A tough match for Nicolet
Nicolet coach Paul Hepp, whose team fell to 5-4 in league play and 8-7 overall, wouldn't be surprised if the Highlanders do just that.
"Give Homestead credit," he said. "They're playing to be in that second spot (in the conference). We knew it'd be a tough match-up and they really brought their 'A' game in that third quarter."
Nicolet will be at Milwaukee Lutheran on Friday and then will host Port on Tuesday.
The Knights won eight of their last 10 games going into the Homestead tilt and acted like it in the first half, breaking out to a 29-19 lead.
"We were playing some intense defense, getting some good deflections and we were moving the ball well and getting good shots," Hepp said, "but they (the Highlanders) turned up their press in the second half and then we started to force up some quick shots. They in turn hit a few outside shots early and gained some confidence."
By the time the quarter ended, the Highlanders were up 44-33 as Homestead stopped Nicolet on 10 of 11 possessions at one point.
Things were going along so well that McKenna took the advice of assistants Khalif el-Amin and Chris Grimm and decided to go with an "iron five" of Jerrod Walton, Luke Worthington, Jake Laihinen, Jaylen Key and Joseph Binyoti.
"And every time it seemed one of them would get tired," McKenna said, "they would get an additional burst."
Homestead didn't sub until three minutes into the fourth quarter.
Key returns from injury
McKenna was pleased to have his sophomore power forward Key back in the line-up. Key had missed much time due to leg injury.
"It made it hard for Nicolet to defend two big guys," McKenna said as 6-8 forward Luke Worthington, recently selected as a nominee for the McDonald's All-American game, had a season-best game with 25 points.
"He was just a load," Hepp said.
Worthington got help from Laihinen with 13, Walton with nine and Key with seven.
Nicolet could not make a run in the fourth quarter. The Knights were paced by Eugene Bonner with 14, Tyler Miller with 13 and Treland Jenkins with nine.
McKenna is hopeful moving forward.
"We finally played as a team," he said.
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