Off to a high-scoring start

Grafton pulls away in second half with three-point barrage under new head coach

GRAFTON’S JULIA PLACE drove to the basket and lofted a left-handed shot in the second half of the season-opening win over Wauwatosa West last Friday. Photo by Mitch Maersch
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

A 45-point second-half outburst ushered in a new era in Grafton High School girls’ basketball last Friday.

New head coach Matt D’Amato earned his first victory in his first game, 66-45, over Wauwatosa West.

Both teams were whistled for a Thanksgiving feast’s worth of fouls in the first half, causing D’Amato to look to his bench. If the fouling continued at the same pace in the second 18-minute stanza, he would have needed to go four rows into the crowd just to field a team.

The Black Hawks took a 21-18 halftime lead, going 10 for-15 on free throws.

In the second, their outside shooting took over. In barely nine and a half minutes, the Hawks drained four three-pointers, two each by Julia Place and Ellie Grisar, to take a 47-36 lead. The Trojans never got closer than nine after that.

“I was just feeling comfortable with it. It’s senior year, I wanted to come out strong. I was in a rhythm so I just wanted to keep it going,” Place said.

She led the Hawks with 11 points. Lexi Hilgart, Mya Masse, Ellie Grisar and Allison Garncarz each had eight, and Ava Wilmanns had seven. Eleven Hawks scored and 13 played.

“Julia Place played phenomenal today,” D’Amato said. “From day one we’ve been telling her you need to open up and just attack the hoop. To see her drive to the basket and knock down a bunch of threes today was awesome. It’s going to do wonders for her confidence.”

The Hawks went 8-for-20 on three-pointers. Hilgart was 2-for-3.

“I don’t know what got into us. We just went for it,” Hilgart said.

The Hawks worked through some first-game jitters in the first half, taking a 16-14 lead with less than four minutes left that they would never relinquish.

“I think our energy really just picked up the second half. We kind of got our nerves out the first half and then came out strong in the second,” Masse said.

D’Amato said he was pleased the nerves left as quickly as they did.

“Once we kind of opened up the game running it seemed like they felt a lot more comfortable,” he said.

Taylor Tagliavia kept the Trojans in the game with four three-pointers, including three in a three-minute span in the second half. Then, the Hawks turned up the defense.

“We kind of figured out what they were doing on defense with the screen coming up all the time and realized we had to switch and adjust our defense to it,” Masse said.

“We were helping on D, just communicating a lot,” Place said.

Masse ran the offense at point guard. D’Amato said the senior has taken sophomores Maddy Wille and Emily Grisar under her wing.

“The senior leadership she brings is phenomenal,” he said.

The Hawks hope to emulate the balanced scoring of its opener. It’s a different philosophy than last year, when senior Hannah Belanger carried the offense and broke the school’s all-time scoring record for girls and boys.

“It’s going to be difficult to scout I think, being that it’s so balanced. A lot of these girls just have to get the confidence to take the shot. We know they can do it. They do it in practice,” D’Amato said.

D’Amato runs a motion offense that allows players to be who they are.

“The message is to not overthink it. Don’t overcomplicate the offense. Just play instinctively,” he said.

D’Amato said he is confident he can put any five girls on the floor at any given time. Without much height, the Hawks like to get out and run, which makes the bench all the more vital to give players rest.

“I really do feel from one to 14 it’s pretty even. The difference is in experience, leadership,” D’Amato said.

Defensively, D’Amato likes running a man-to-man scheme.

“I think it has a sense of accountability and responsibility,” he said.

D’Amato was an assistant at Port Washington for three years and led the Marquette University woman’s club team to a national title, among other coaching experience.

The Hawks were to open North Shore Conference play at West Bend West on Tuesday and host Cedarburg on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

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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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