Glendale - It's beginning to look a little like the good old days for the Nicolet boys basketball team as the Knights are using a stifling defensive attitude to stymie opponents.
That helped them earn wins over Port Washington (63-43), Grafton (58-41) and St. John's Military Academy (61-23) last week in running their win streak to five and putting a season opening four-game losing skid deep in their rearview mirror.
'We're really coming together,' Knights coach Paul Hepp said. 'To win five in a row is really special. And it's not just any one thing. It's a combination of things. The guys are realizing that it's doing the little things that need to be done each game that really counts.
'One game it may be defense, another it may be offensive execution, just a different thing every day.'
With the victories over Port and Grafton, Nicolet improved to 3-2 in the North Shore, good for fourth place in the current standings. They will be at league opponent Cedarburg on Friday in their final preholiday contest.
And they are going out full of the holiday spirit.
In the NY2LA Classic game against St. John's on Saturday at Homestead, the Knights' defense dominated things right from the get-go, as they were up 15-3 at the quarter and 34-9 at the half.
Three players broke into double figures for Nicolet as Tyler Miller and Eugene Bonner each had 14 and Jerry Luckett had 10. Nicolet was an impressive 15 for 15 from the foul line in the contest.
'Our legs were a little tired,' Hepp said, 'and so we had some shots fall a little bit short, but our defense really gave us a shot of energy.'
In the home win against Grafton the night before, the Knights nursed a small 38-35 advantage into the final quarter, but then outscored the Blackhawks 20-6 in the final stanza to pull away.
'We went 7-0 to start the fourth and really started putting a little more pressure on them defensively,' Hepp said. 'We were able to force a few more turnovers that way.'
Hepp was really pleased with the combination defensive effort that helped limit Grafton's 6-7 star Scotty Tyler to just 13 points, well below his season average.
'And we've done that to other teams as well and that has proved to be very beneficial,' Hepp said.
Greg Pigg led the way for Nicolet with 21 points as Miller had 14, and Nolan Wagner and point guard Treland Jenkins contributed six apiece.
Against Port on Dec. 11, the Knights fell behind 11-8 at the quarter but then scuttled the Pirates' hopes by outscoring them 44-18 in the second and third quarters combined.
It's all part of a philosophy, Hepp said.
'We're trying to make sure that we don't have a bad quarter offensively in a game, while we try to make sure that our opponent has at least one such bad quarter each game,' he said.
Miller had 18 points while Bonner tossed in 17 and Pigg 11. Pigg had three, 3-pointers and Bonner two.
'It's been a real team effort,' Hepp said. 'We're still battling a few injuries, but we're working seven or eight guys in each game. We still have things to work on, but winning makes up for a lot of small errors. It's been a good set of wins, but I think we can still take it to a higher level.
'These kids are still hungry.'