A 14-0 run proved decisive in Nicolet's 48-42 victory over Grafton in a WIAA Division 2 regional boys basketball game on March 3.
“We work so hard to get to this point,” Nicolet coach Al Hanson said. “We didn’t work this hard just to get here, and that’s what we really wanted the guys to understand. We work hard to keep this train rolling and get things going. Grafton’s a hell of a team. We beat these guys three times in a season, a senior-led team; that’s tough.”
With the game tied at 26 early in the second half, the Black Hawks went up by six on a pair of 3-point field goals from Ryan Stachurski and Justin Peters to take a 32-26 lead, but then the Knights took total control.
Jeremy Ninham and Jayden Hardy sank twos for the Knights before Hardy shot a 3-pointer to give his team a 33-32 lead. He followed that with a layup for 7 consecutive points while the Grafton offense couldn’t seem to muster anything.
Jack Brahm added a layup for the Knights before Sonny Phinisee hit 1 of 2 free throws. Dakari Williams added a rebound basket to complete the 14-0 run and put the Knights up, 40-32.
“I just told myself, ‘We beat them two times, we had to beat them the third,'" Hardy said. "When you’re down, it’s nothing because you can come back easily. That’s what we did, and we got the win.”
The Black Hawks fought back for the remainder of the game and were able to close the gap to 5 points twice near the end of the game, but with time running out and both teams in double bonus, Grafton was unable to recover from Nicolet’s momentum shift.
Peters paced Grafton with 21 points, and Tanner Autey added 13 points.
“These are resilient kids,” Grafton coach Damon James said. “They’ll always fight to the end, and that’s what that was about. We were finally able to get some drives to the basket and get the correct calls. We should’ve been like that all game.”
Grafton (13-11) had advanced by downing Milwaukee Madison, 63-42, on Feb. 28. Logan Hilgart led the way with 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists, and Jacob Wilkin added 9 points.
Peters had 9 points and three assists; Stachurski and Darrian Langerman 8 points apiece; and Quinton Riddle two steals.
Grafton faces a rebuilding job next season, losing 13 seniors off its roster.
“You lose 13 great kids, unbelievable men, so you’re starting a little bit from the drawing board, but the junior varsity team did very well," James said. "They finished up 16-4, so definitely the future looks bright.”