In a pivotal North Shore Conference game, Cedarburg stepped up defensively in the second half, forcing Homestead into difficult, low percentage shots, while controlling the time of possession. Meanwhile, the offense exploded in the final 6:44 to break a 38-all tie and win going away, 56-42.

The Bulldogs (11-4) closed the game on a 20-4 run and moved to 6-1 in North Shore Conference play, one game back of three-time defending league champion Germantown (14-2, 8-0).

“We were pretty hard on them at the half because our defensive play,” Cedarburg coach Dave Ross said. “We didn’t rotate and rebound well. We had a couple of people really step up in the second half. There were a lot of big plays for us, and we started to hit free throws to secure the win.”

Cedarburg extended its winning streak to four games. The Bulldogs lost to Germantown earlier this year by 15 points and will play the Warhawks on Feb. 10 at home.

“I haven’t slept much because I know if you get two games behind Germantown, you probably don’t have a chance for conference,” Ross said. “If we play the way we did tonight, we can play against anybody.

“The second half was really good basketball for us. If we can sustain that against really good teams, then we can play with anyone. This game was huge as far as the conference is concerned. These are the games you want to be involved in and win. I’m very proud of how our girls were able to manage the game at the end.”

With the loss, Homestead (8-5, 5-2 NSC) falls to third in the conference standings. It’s been a difficult stretch for the Highlanders, as they’ve dropped three of their last four contests.

Aside from Marquette recruit Chloe Marotta, who finished with 25 points and 18 rebounds against Cedarburg, the Highlanders are searching for players to step up and contribute on a consistent basis.

“Chloe (Marotta) will do whatever she can to help this team win,” Homestead coach Corey Wolf said. “Other girls need to learn how to feed off of that. They need to find their niche on this team. That’s the rough patch we’re going through. They will do things well and then pull back. It has to be there all the time.”

The Highlanders took advantage of Cedarburg’s struggling low-post defense in the first half, leading 21-10 at the 2:39 mark. But, the Bulldogs finished the half on a 7-2 run with Kennedy Ross tallying all 7 points to cut Homestead’s lead to 23-17.

Cedarburg picked up right where it left off in the second half, going on a 10-0 run to grab a 27-23 lead with 13:52 left. Kalli Murphy started the scoring run, hitting a wide-open shot. Kennedy Ross then drained two straight 3-point shots before Quinn Prom capped off the run with a layup.

“I think the turning point was when Kennedy (Ross) got hot,” David Ross said. “It stretched the defense, so then we were able to get some layups.”

Marotta scored 6 straight points to give Homestead a 30-29 lead with 10:51 remaining. Both teams continued to battle back and forth over the next 4 minutes, before Cedarburg shut down the Highlanders’ offensive attack, limiting them to a handful of sloppy shot attempts the rest of the game.

“We really struggled scoring,” said Wolf about her team’s second-half performance. “We couldn’t make shots. The shots we got were difficult. We didn’t get great looks, and then we struggled defensively. It’s a snowball effect.”

Cedarburg’s Kennedy Ross finished the game with a team-high 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting from the floor, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range. Kalli Murphy also chipped in 17 points and six rebounds.

“She had a game where she made a huge difference in a huge game,” said David Ross about Kennedy Ross. “I’m really proud of her. She hasn’t been hitting her shot as consistent as she did tonight. But, she’s a four-year varsity player, and she knew what the game meant.”