Whitefish Bay — Hopes for an elite finish in the North Shore Conference were kept in place for the Whitefish Bay girls basketball team on Thursday, but not in a pretty or easy fashion, as the Blue Dukes had to show a lot of heart and character when they finally disposed of Homestead, 33-29.
"We were short people and we ran into foul trouble but by the fourth quarter, I thought the kids we had left on the floor had grown up immensely," said Bay coach Greg Capper. "They really took some leadership upon themselves and made things happen for us.
"Looking at the big picture with the idea that sports is a character-building exercise I have rarely seen a more determined effort from a team."
The Blue Dukes, who also routed St. Thomas More, 59-26, on Feb. 15 and held off a stubborn Brown Deer squad, 41-33, on Saturday to complete an impressive 3-0 week, improved to 9-2 in North Shore play and 14-4 overall.
Bay will look to hang onto second place in the North Shore this week, when visits Cedarburg (9-3, 15-5) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Blue Dukes beat the Bulldogs earlier this season. Then on Tuesday, March 1, they will host Germantown (4-7, 5-14), also at 7:30 p.m.
Wins like what the Blue Dukes earned against Homestead (3-9, 5-14) are the kind that will go a long ways towards keeping them in second in the North Shore behind three-time champ Nicolet (12-0, 18-2).
Bay took a 15-5 first quarter lead but led only 17-12 at the half. It didn't help that freshman center Maya Jonas had three fouls. Jonas then picked up her fourth just after the third quarter began, as the offensive doldrums continued for Bay.
The Highlanders went into the fourth quarter with a 24-21 lead.
But with the help Jonas, who played almost the entire fourth quarter with four fouls, Elisabeth Johnston and Leslie Fuda, the Blue Dukes rallied. They took the lead for good midway through the final stanza as Jonas dropped in a couple of key inside shots, Fuda got a key lay-up and Johnston came up with some critical steals.
They finally clinched in the final seconds when Jonas was fouled on a breakaway attempt and made two free throws to give the Blue Dukes a four-point lead. Homestead star Sienna Mitman fouled out on the play.
Jonas had 13 points to lead all scorers while Fuda and Johnston had eight apiece. Mitman led Homestead with 12 while Hannah Young had 10.
"That was just a gutsy, gutsy effort," said Capper of the physical, difficult victory.
Against Brown Deer (10-10), the Blue Dukes built a 26-19 first half lead against the Falcons, who were closing out a difficult 0-3 week. Jonas had 15 points while Johnston came up with nine and Fuda seven.
In the victory over More (3-15), the Blue Dukes broke out to a 22-4 first quarter lead and then never looked back. Jonas had a career night with 23 points while Johnston had 17 and Jessica Switzer 12.
Capper said he scheduled the game because he and Cavaliers coach Brian Krysiak are friends. He's hopeful for better and maybe better things ahead.
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