Nicolet boys snap losing streak, down Bay
Blue Dukes blow opportunity to tie for league lead
Calling it a character win, coach Paul Hepp and the Nicolet boys basketball team hit just enough free throws and weathered a furious last-ditch series of attempts by host Whitefish Bay to get a badly needed, 53-52, win Friday night.
The win broke a three-game losing streak for the Knights (4-4 in the North Shore and 10-5 overall) and loused up an opportunity for the Blue Dukes (5-3 and 10-4, respectively) to jump into a tie for the North Shore lead as Germantown (5-3, 11-5) upset league-leading Port Washington (6-2, 12-2), 65-63.
"That felt good," said Hepp. "Our guys already knew the bad news, that they were playing crappy, but the good news was, was that we knew we weren't a crappy team. They know if they do all the little things that they can play with anyone on the schedule and beat them and tonight they did."
Senior guard Myles Henry (14 points) and the Knights took that knowledge to heart.
"We were stuck on that streak," he said. "We understood what we were going through. We knew we were better than that - that we all needed to come together."
And the Knights found their heart in the second half. A Henry bucket to start the third quarter gave Nicolet its largest lead of the night at 28-20, but then the Blue Dukes, who were without head coach Kevin Lazovik after his wife gave birth to their first child, a baby girl, earlier Friday, went on a 9-0 run to take a 29-28 advantage with 4:46 remaining in the quarter.
But as Hepp noted "Every time they got momentum, we stood up and said 'Enough!' "
The Knights then followed the Bay outburst with a 9-3 run of their own to close out the period and take a 37-34 lead going into the final stanza.
Turnovers doom Dukes
Blue Dukes assistant coach Joe D'amato said more of the urgency that was displayed early in the third quarter would have been helpful in a turnover-strewn first half for Bay (16 miscues in the session), that left them in a state of "catch-up" all evening.
"It's been an issue we've been trying to address all year," he said. "We just seem to have a rough time getting out of the gate. We definitely needed to take better care of the ball and box out better than we did. We play our game, we can be as good as anyone in the conference. We didn't do that tonight."
But it wasn't for a lack of effort, because Nicolet was able to hold the Blue Dukes at arm's length throughout the fourth quarter, but not easily.
The Knights stretched the lead to seven, at 47-40, on a post shot by Henry at the 4:07 mark. But Bay's Ron Patten had a couple of answers for that. Patten, who had to sit out much of the first half with an apparent knee injury, scored 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, including back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 47-46 with 3:13 remaining.
"We had been looking to get him going the whole game," said D'amato of Patten. "It looked bad for him for awhile (with the knee), but he got it taken care of and then he just stepped up huge."
But the Knights got a bucket from center Christian Griggs-Williams (11 points) to stem the tide. After another Patten hoop cut it to one and two wide open misses by Nicolet under the basket, the Blue Dukes missed the front end of a bonus situation that could have potentially given them the lead with less than two minutes to go.
Henry hit just one-of-two free throws with 42 seconds to go to make it 52-50, but the Blue Dukes couldn't take advantage, turning the ball over on a good looking play under the basket. It was the last of Bay's 23 turnovers on the night.
Desperation tosses miss
Nicolet then ran clock and Henry was eventually fouled with 16 seconds left. He hit the first, but missed the potential game-clinching second toss, giving Bay a chance to tie with a 3-pointer.
The Blue Dukes didn't call a time-out. After being harried by the Knights defense, they got off one decent 3-point attempt and then a second desperation toss before John Johnston put in a two-pointer just before the buzzer.
"It would have been nice had I hit those free throws," Henry said, "but this is still good. We needed to get that bad taste of all those losses out of our mouth(s)."
Nicolet hit 17-of-22 free throws on the evening. Tre Kinlow had 16 for Nicolet and Johnston led Bay with 17.
NSC boys race tightens
Nicolet win complicates matters
UP NEXT FOR THE KNIGHTS: Nicolet hosted Port Washington on Tuesday. A victory there would put the Knights just a game back. They will then visit winless Grafton at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Then on Feb. 9, they will visit Kenosha Bradford for their last nonconference game of the season.
UP NEXT FOR THE BLUE DUKES: After taking on Germantown on Tuesday, the Blue Dukes will get a chance to control their own destiny when they visit Port Washington at 7:30 p.m. Friday. They will then have their final nonconference game of the season on Feb. 10 at village rival Dominican.
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