NICOLET GIRLS BASKETBALL
New beginnings and second-year coach Rick DeKeyser is hoping for the best as the Knights' last holdovers from the 2011 state championship team have graduated and left Nicolet with a lot of new faces.
"I got into practice, I literally did not know what I had," DeKeyser said. "We were starting over. We lost 96 percent of our scoring and 98 percent of our rebounding (from a team that went 13-10), but this is a great group of kids. There's not a quitter in the bunch and they really push each other."
The Knights took a rough hit in their opener, as they dropped a turnover-plagued 50-25 decision to Waukesha South in the Brookfield Central Thanksgiving Holiday Shootout on Friday.
The only holdovers who saw even a little bit of time last season are 5-8 junior guard Lizzy Benson, and 5-3 senior guard Jordana Rubnitz. Other than that, it's all new for DeKeyser and the Knights.
Others he will be counting on this winter include sophomores Brookelyn (5-8) and Brandilyn (5-9) Robertson, 5-7 junior Tori Travia, and 5-4 junior guard Sheila Johnson. DeKeyser played everyone on the bench in the South game in order to get some film on them.
DeKeyser is preaching patience throughout the program as he said the club program took a hit for a few years but now it's reloading.
"The fourth through seventh grades are loaded so there is a future," he said. "We're focusing about 90 percent of our time on defense right now and we'll stop worrying about other teams. ...We'll just watch our own tape and see if we can improve from doing that."
SHOREWOOD GIRLS BASKETBALL
One of the favorites in the Woodland Conference Eastern Division, the Greyhounds boast an experienced and athletic team that will try to overcome the handicap of losing its best player, forward Robbie Holland, to a knee injury before the season started.
"We'll still be pretty strong," coach Jeff Eimers said, "but she was a first-team All-Woodland East choice (last season)....Other than that, we return all our other starters. It's just very crucial now that we stay healthy."
The Greyhounds opened their season on a positive note, downing HOPE Christian, 70-26, on Friday and then Milwaukee Lutheran, 51-35, on Saturday.
They graduated only one player off a team that finished an encouraging 12-11 last season.
Key returnees from that squad, include juniors 5-5 point guard Aisling Moloney, 6-0 forward Grace Hayes, and 6-0 forward Ashley Eimers; and sophomores 5-8 guard Annie Leo and 5-10 forward Jada Stackhouse.
Others who will likely help out include 5-4 junior guard Sarah Mackowski, 5-7 sophomore guard Megan Eimers, 5-6 junior forward Nancy Norkett and 5-7 sophomore guard Meghan Curtis.
"We'll definitely have some size to work with but depth will be a concern," said coach Eimers, who is coaching both his daughters again this season. "It's very crucial that we stay healthy. We'll also have more shooters this year. Hayes, Moloney, Ashley (Eimers) all have improved their scoring.
"We have a philosophy this year, Robbie (Holland) took about 270 shots last winter, so we have 270 shots that somebody has to take this winter," Eimers said.
He said that Leo will be a threat from the three-point line and the athletic Stackhouse will find her way around the basket.
"I like this group in that way," he said. "Any of the top five could lead us in scoring. The kids have been very unselfish so far. We've played OK defense but that can get better."
A big key for the Greyhounds this year, Eimers noted, is winning close games. The Greyhounds lost too many of those last year, he said, and that problem must be rectified.
In the win over Lutheran, Stackhouse (16 points), Hayes (13) and Moloney (10) all scored in double figures while Ashley Eimers had nine.
A total of eight players scored in the rout of HOPE Christian as Leo had 16, Ashley Eimers 15, Stackhouse 13 and Hayes 10.
WHITEFISH BAY GIRLS BASKETBALL
Blue Dukes center Maya Jonas has committed to Northwestern, her surgically repaired knee is 100 percent and she is motivated.
But will that be enough to lead an otherwise young Bay team to a place in the upper reaches of the North Shore Conference as well as a long WIAA playoff run?
New coach Dave Markson is hoping for the best as Bay opened its season with a split in the Pius XI Hank Raymonds Tournament last weekend.
"Maya's playing at a very high level right now, she's strong and she's confident," said Markson, the former assistant for Greg Capper, who stepped down after last season."
The 6-2 Jonas finished the college recruiting process earlier this fall so she is free to focus on the needs of the Blue Dukes who finished 16-9 after Jonas missed the first half of the campaign recovering from knee surgery.
The only other player with serious experience, however, is 6-1 junior forward Ashley Reed, who Markson said is also playing confidently. Others with some experience include 5-7 senior Catie McBride, the 5-7 sophomore sister of Jonas, Emma, and 5-11 junior Emma Jankowski.
Others who Markson has high hopes for include 5-6 sophomore guard Kaitlyn Jackson, 5-7 sophomore guard Grace Wirth, 5-11 junior forward Eileen Comiskey, and 5-6 sophomore guard Rachel Schmidt.
"We're carrying twelve on the team and there's a lot of expectations," Markson said. "We're looking to get all those kids experience."
Markson said that as the former junior varsity coach, he knows many of the players and that will make the transition from Capper easier this winter.
"We didn't have the benefit of any contact days and we didn't really have an offense in place when we got started," he said, "but these kids are smart and they know how to play the game. ...They've done a good job absorbing things."
Bay, which opens North Shore Conference play at league co-favorite Germantown at 7:30 p.m. Friday, beat Sussex Hamilton in the consolation game of the Raymonds Tournament on Saturday, 47-39, as Maya Jonas was dominant with 29 points (including 11-of-15 free throws) as well as 15 rebounds.
Reed added 11 points and an impressive 16 boards.
Bay fell to Kimberly, 46-36, in the semifinal the day before as Reed had 16 points and Jonas 12. The two combined for 13 blocks in the two games."
There have been some rough years recently for the Highlanders, but coach Matt Heuser thinks those days are over, as his team boasts experience, talent and a will do to better this winter.
"We're relevant again," Heuser said, after the season-opening, 52-36, win over host Madison East on Saturday. "This is my fifth year and we're excited to get going. We have all five starters back and a lot of kids who played a lot of AAU ball over the summer. We also have a little star power, too, and we scored 52 points in a game where we could have scored a lot more."
Homestead, which returns 91 percent of its scoring, will be led by 5-10 sophomore point guard Taylor McIlwraith, who stuffed the stat sheet in the win over East, scoring 26 points, including four of six on three-pointers, and six of eight on twos. She also had 10 steals and 14 deflections.
"She's our star power," Heuser said.
Other key returnees include 5-9 senior forward Olivia Covill, 5-11 senior forward Danielle Neilson, and 5-7 junior guard Marciarae Harmon.
Heuser will also get help from seniors 5-6 guard Kate Weitzer, 5-2 Shelby Berlin, and Kaelee McIlwraith; and from 5-8 sophomore guard Christal Hearn, among others on the 13-player roster.
"We'll go about 10 deep like we did against East," he said. "That'll help us keep the energy up. We had 26 steals, 32 deflections and we forced 44 turnovers in that game."
One thing that Heuser is definitely going to have the team work on is free throws. The Highlanders hit just 12 of 34 from the line against East.
"I think we can be in the conference race," he said. "I like our athleticism and our depth. We have some skills. They just need to be polished."
The experienced Falcons will be a factor in the wide-open Woodland Conference Eastern Division this winter second-year coach Vinnie Murray said.
"We lost a couple of key players and that'll hurt," he said, "but we're confident and I like our chemistry. We also had a a pretty good summer playing well in a league over at Nicolet.
"This group works hard. It was funny though, I joked with them, 'it's strange having the same coach two years in a row, isn't it?' But that has really helped. Last year (in his first season), it took us three months to get rolling (because we were getting used to one another), but this year, the first couple of practices were really seamless."
The Falcons are coming off an 8-16 season and build around a large senior class including 5-8 swing person Valerie Whiyee, 5-5 guard Imani Stingley, 5-7 point guard Sabrina Wimer and 5-5 guard Katie Montgomery. Stingley and Whiyee are off to excellent starts, Murray said though Wimer is just getting back to full strength after recovering from a foot problem that bothered her for much of last season.
Others Murray will rely on include 5-10 junior forward Kendall Laurent, 6-0 junior Shayna Key, 5-5 junior Ashley Jefferson, 5-4 junior guard Joyce Biddle and 5-5 sophomore guard Rikki Nelson.
Murray said that Key will be relied upon to do a lot of the inside dirty work and that Jefferson is a relentless defender with a very strong basketball IQ. He thinks the team can go nine or 10 deep this season.
"I'm very happy with where we're heading," Murray said. "We're in better condition. We're ready to go."
The Falcons opened up the new Brown Deer field house Tuesday against Shorewood and are at Greendale at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
BROWN DEER BOYS BASKETBALL
The Falcons belted Cudahy, 66-33, on Nov. 26 to improve to 3-0 on the young season.
They took a 22-12 lead at the quarter and then never looked back as Zack Baun and Devante Jackson had 12 points apiece and Craig Schimenz came up with 11 and Jerry Luckett and Lewrenzo Byers contributed eight apiece.
Brown Deer took on Shorewood on Tuesday and hosts Greendale at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a pair of Woodland games.
The 2-1 Blue Dukes tested themselves last week and did well, as they lost a tough, 58-53 decision to traditional state power Rufus King on Nov. 26 and then routed University School, 84-43, on Friday.
Bay nows take a deep breath and hosts two-time state champion Germantown in the North Shore opener at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
They then come back and host Homestead on Dec. 10.
In the win over University School, Bay took a 30-10 lead at the end of the first quarter and then never looked back as Miles Sigh led 12 scorers with 18 points while Joe Sherburne had 13, and Isaiah Johnson and Christian Lane had 12 apiece.
Bay trailed King 27-17 at the half, but cut the margin to 41-34 at the end of three quarters and then fought to keep the game close in the fourth. King hit 22-of-35 free throws as opposed to 12 of 19 for the Blue Dukes. Sherburne had 11 points while Sigh and Lane had 10 apiece for Bay.
The Greyhounds improved to 2-0 with an 85-71 decision over Woodland foe Greenfield on Nov. 26.
The game was tied at 40 going into the second half, but then the Greyhounds took the lead with a 23-15 effort in the third quarter.
Five players broke into double figures for the Greyhounds as Tejon Lucas had 24, Paris Perkins 18, Shane Carrington 14, and Kejuan Glosson and Kenneth Odom 12 each.
The Greyhounds are at Whitnall at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
NICOLET BOYS BASKETBALL
Knights' guard Greg Pigg scored 38 points but a furious rally came up a little short as they fell 70-68 in their season opener to Bay View on Nov. 26.
Nicolet trailed 50-40 heading into the fourth quarter but outscored the Redcats 28-20 before falling.
Pigg turned in a spectacular effort, hitting 13 2-point goals, five 3-pointers and seven of 11 free throws. Jezzriah Burton also broke into double figures with 12.
Nicolet hosts Grafton at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
— Steven L. Tietz
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