Grafton girls witness hoops history

This time, an opponent becomes her school’s all-time leading scorer in Black Hawks’ road loss

GRAFTON’S HALENA GEHRKE (left photo) went up for a shot in between Maddie (32) and Isabella Baker (24) and Holly Kunkler (13) as teammate Allison Garncarz waited for a possible rebound at West Bend West on Nov. 26. Lexi Hilgart (above) got inside for a bucket. Photos by Mitch Maersch
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

The Grafton High School girls’ basketball team has seen this movie before.

Only last year, it was on their side.

The Black Hawks ran into an athletic and much taller opponent at West Bend West on Nov. 26 and lost, 60-50, in a game marked by a milestone.

The Spartans were led by star Maddie Baker, who stands 6 feet, 3 inches tall and has arms that look even longer when she reaches for rebounds.

Baker poured in 30 points, half of her team’s output, and made history on a bucket inside with 40 second left in the first half.

Just before the third quarter was to start, it was announced that Baker had broken the school’s all-time scoring record for girls and boys. She rose an arm to acknowledge cheers from the crowd.

The Black Hawks were no stranger to that feat. Last season, Hannah Belanger broke Grafton’s girls and boys’ scoring records.

“It’s not great to be on the other side but it is a great accomplishment. Congratulations to her. She’s a very good player. She’s tough to guard. She’s quick. She earns every point, that’s for sure,” Grafton coach Matt D’Amato said.

“It’s still basketball. We’re all a community,” senior Lexi Hilgart said. “Congratulations to her.”

While overmatched in height — the Hawks don’t have a player at 6 feet while the Spartans have three — Grafton battled through scrappiness and outside shooting.

The Hawks made 12 three-pointers, three each by Hilgart and Emily Grisar and two by Julia Place.

“We just had to find our shooters, find the play that worked for us and do our thing,” Hilgart said.

Place scored 12 points and Hilgart and Grisar each had 11. Nine Hawks scored.

Starting senior point guard Mya Masse missed the game due to illness, and D’Amato said he was proud of sophomores Grisar and Maddy Wille for stepping up.

“Once it got into the second half they started feeling a little more comfortable in the role,” he said.

“A lot of growth happened. I feel like the second half of that second half we started to finally calm down and we weren’t as intimidated by their length, seeing the passes that we needed to make.”

Rebounds were a challenge for the Hawks all night long.

“Boxing out was rough. We worked on getting a body on people and pushing them out of the lane. With that kind of height and athleticism, it makes it tough,” D’Amato said.

Just running a normal offense was a tall task. Baker often hung out near the top of the key and, along with her teammates, disrupted passing lanes.

“It takes some getting used to,” D’Amato said of facing that kind of defense.

The Hawks’ defense wasn’t totally outdone. Both teams forced one another into enough turnovers to add to the dessert lineup in their Thanksgiving meals.

The Hawks fell behind by as many as 12 in the first half before going into the break down, 26-16.

While the Spartans used their size to their advantage, they missed several shots inside that helped keep the Hawks in the game.

In the second half, the Spartans began to open a bigger lead, topping out at 58-38 with two and a half minutes left, but the Hawks wouldn’t go away.

“When it did hit 20, we still kept coming on the offensive end and sprinting back on defense, “D’Amato said.

“We want to be known as a team that never gives up. You never know what happens.”

Pressing after making a basket and still fighting for loose balls helped Grafton close the game on a 7-0 run in the last 28.6 seconds. Ava Wilmanns hit two free throws, and the Hawks forced a quick turnover in the back court. Place hit a jumper, and the press forced a jump ball with Grafton having the possession arrow. Hilgart drained a three-pointer with just a few ticks left.

“I’m happy with how we closed that game,” D’Amato said.

“It could have been really worse. I think our press we put on there really helped,” Hilgart said.

The Hawks, 0-1 in the North Shore Conference and 1-1 overall, were to host rival Cedarburg on Tuesday, play at West Bend East on Friday and host Homestead on Tuesday, Dec. 10. All are conference games.

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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