Mequon — First-year Homestead boys basketball coach Marquis Hines would still like to see more production out of his big men, and he knows that there are likely to be bumps along the way as the still-youthful Highlanders work their way down the road.
But real progress has been made since the rocky start they suffered earlier this winter.
That point was evident last week, as the Highlanders gutted out a 59-52 double overtime road win over Milwaukee Lutheran on Dec. 14 and then pushed past visiting Cedarburg on Friday, 57-44.
Tied in conference
With the two wins, the Highlanders remained tied for first in the North Shore Conference with state-ranked Germantown, both with 3-0 records. Homestead, which has had a very rugged non-conference schedule, is 3-4 overall.
"These were very good conference wins," said Hines. "We faced a little adversity in the beginning as the kids got used to a different style of coaching and were just figuring out the system, but we've gotten better."
The Highlanders now host the annual John Chekouras Classic on Dec. 28 and 29. They take on Kenosha Tremper on Dec. 28 and Sheboygan South on Dec. 29 in a pair of 7:30 p.m. contests.
Over the break, Hines will emphasize one serious issue that still needs addressing.
"We need more production from our bigs if we're going to continue to win on a consistent basis," he said. "We just can't have it be all the guards. Luke (Worthington) and Max (Beckers) need to get better."
The Highlanders were just a bit better defensively than Cedarburg (1-2, 3-3) in a battle of the North Shore's two best defensive teams (both allowing around 47 points per game). Homestead surged ahead 16-10 at the quarter and held a 32-25 advantage at the break.
A 16-9 effort in the fourth quarter sealed the decision.
Jake Laihinen led Homestead with 17 points, LaMonte Bearden had nine and Worthington had eight.
The Highlanders pulled out the win over Lutheran (1-2, 2-3) despite the Red Knights outscoring them 20-12 in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Both teams scored five points in the first extra session but the Highlanders surged ahead to the win in the second session with a 12-5 effort.
Hines couldn't say enough about the play of junior Cody Berger (12 points) and of the leadership displayed by seniors Andrew Debbink (12) and Doug Mueller (six).
"Those two (Debbink and Mueller) have really emerged as our leaders," Hine said. "They've really done the job and Cody (Berger) is just playing hard. He's really stepped it up."
Hines also praised Dominic Wilder (10 points) for his play off the bench.
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