Henry ready to carry Nicolet to victory
Knights notch notable victories over Waukesha West, Madison South
All-North Shore Conference guard Myles Henry took his considerable talents and a bunch of his friends with him when he graduated last spring after leading the Nicolet boys basketball team to a 17-8 record, which included a WIAA regional championship.
But if the Knights are missing Henry and his friends this winter, they didn't show it last weekend. The youthful Nicolet squad turned in impressive victories over Waukesha South (54-45) and Madison West (60-49) in the season-opening NY2LA Sports Classic at Milwaukee Marquette.
"So far, so good," said veteran coach Paul Hepp. "We still have a lot to work out, but it was a very positive start. …This team has a lot of inexperience and we really didn't know what we had, but what was most impressive was that in two games on successive days, teams made major runs at us but then we came back and made runs ourselves and pulled out victories."
It was an astonishing effort, considering that the Knights' only experienced leader is 6-foot-6 senior forward Christian Griggs-Williams, who took on the role with a 22-point showing against West and a 19-point effort against South.
"Christian started up (as a leader) last spring," said Hepp. "He knew the position that he was in and so he became more vocal and was helpful in getting the guys organized. He actually couldn't play much this summer because of a knee problem, but he was still involved."
Looking for consistency
The Nicolet roster has seven seniors total on it, but not much experience in that group. Other starters include 6-4 senior forward Raheem Lemons, 6-3 sophomore forward Eugene Bonner, 5-11 junior guard Corey Smith and 5-8 sophomore guard Treland Jenkins.
"Right now, we're just looking for some consistency," said Hepp. "We'll look brilliant for five minutes and then really bad for the next five. But I'm I big believer in that success breeds success. We can look at all the mistakes we made, find out where we're lacking but still come out with a win."
That occurred big time on Saturday against West, as Nicolet had a 32-17 lead at the break, only to see the Regents wipe that out with a 20-8 surge in the third quarter.
The Knights righted their ship and pulled away in the fourth as Smith had 17 to go along with Griggs-Williams' big effort. The pair combined for a 15 of 16 effort at the foul line.
Nicolet was in a similar position on Friday as South was at the end of a 14-2 run that erased a 37-27 third-quarter lead for Nicolet and put the Blackshirts ahead 41-37 with 6:40 remaining. It was still 43-39 South with 4:53 left when Nicolet sophomore forward Tyler Miller hit a three-pointer from the wing to close the gap to 43-42.
South's 6-11 center Derek Hussinger hit a shot in the lane with 3:42 remaining to make it 45-44 Blackshirts, but that would be their last lead.
Smith drained two free throws at the 3:18 mark to put Nicolet ahead for good, and after a South turnover, Griggs-Williams, the only returning starter for the Knights, hit the last of three chances for Nicolet to make it 48-45 with 2:43 remaining.
Griggs-Williams would hit two free throws (seven of seven all told) at the 2:00 mark to effectively clinch things as the Knights went on a 12-2 run to close out the contest.
Discovering and learning
Nicolet drained 14 of 15 free throws in the tilt, including eight of nine in the fourth quarter.
"We hit our free throws, and the only time we miss we do that?" said Hepp. "I'll take that any day. ...We're still finding out things about ourselves and for us to do this and come out on top makes it all the better."
The Knights will play at West Bend West at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, before its first home game at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday against Kenosha Bradford.
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