The defense is a trademark, a standard, and the best in the area, and it just helped the Whitefish Bay girls basketball team earn its second WIAA D2 regional championship in a row with a stifling, 46-24 victory over Brown Deer on Saturday night.
"We're very athletic and long as a team and we know how to use our strength," said point guard Elisabeth Johnston, who led all scorers with 17 points. "We're able to get a lot of deflections and steals with it, and it's something we work on every day in practice."
With the victory, the Blue Dukes (20-4) advanced to a WIAA sectional semifinal at Waukesha North on Thursday against Wauwatosa West (13-11), which was a 48-45 winner over Wisconsin Lutheran, while Brown Deer ended its season at 10-14.
Bay was a WIAA D2 state tournament qualifier last season.
One thing that pleased Blue Dukes coach Greg Capper was the output that resulted from the defensive effort.
"Tonight, even more than last night (the regional semifinal win over Shorewood), was that we finally were able to create turnovers and convert them into baskets," he said. "I also thought we executed well in the halfcourt, especially in the first half. I also thought we handled things on the boards and on offense as well as we have all year."
Falcons coach Steve Reinhardt was impressed with the Blue Dukes.
"They pass the ball so well in that offense," he said. "If we didn't deny the pass, they were going to get a basket. They were also able to hit some key shots just when they needed them."
The Bay offense was very effective in the first quarter, as the Blue Dukes broke out to a 16-9 lead. Junior guard Ava Stock had six of her 11 points in the period.
Johnston had six points in the second session as the lead went to 24-13.
Bay held the Falcons to just four points in the second quarter and got even more stingy in the third period, as Brown Deer put in just one free throw from Imani Stingley.
"We just couldn't score in that third period and that really hurt," said Reinhardt.
The Blue Dukes wound up outscoring the Falcons 13-1 in the session to take a 37-14 lead going into the fourth quarter, effectively ending the game.
Brown Deer could get no closer than 20 points in the fourth quarter.
Stingley would lead the Falcons with seven points.
Reinhardt was pleased with the effort, as the Falcons played much of the second half of the season with just seven players.
"These kids learned so much as basketball players and even more as young women," he said. "They were just sponges. They absorbed everything that we gave them."
Bay also got help from center Maya Jonas, who had 12 points.
"I think we're playing pretty well right now," said Johnston, "and we're staying mentally tough too. We know what we have to do to get to state again next week and I think we can get there if we do things right."
Capper is going to celebrate the moment, and then work on keeping the Blue Dukes focused on the task at hand.
"We've accomplished two things this season," he said. "The conference tri-championship and a repeat regional championship. We're building some consistency that way and now we're just going to take things one at a time."
"One at a time."