The first meeting of the 'Homestead Society for Basketball Benevolence towards Germantown' met on the night of Jan. 22 and was a smashing success.
That's because due to the emotional 62-58 double overtime win of the Highlander boys over Cedarburg and the skin-of-the-teeth 48-45 victory by the girls also over Cedarburg that same evening, both Germantown teams were propelled back into first place.
Both Homestead boys coach Kevin McKenna and girls coach Corey Wolf got good laughs out of the idea that a Highlander athletic team would ever do anything to benefit a Warhawk squad, but both were more pleased with the strong signs of progress both of their squads showed.
More importantly, the Homestead girls' win kept the Highlanders in the North Shore Conference race at 5-2, tied in the loss column with Cedarburg and Grafton (both 6-2) and just a smidge behind Germantown (7-1).
'It was a huge game for us,' said Wolf of the Cedarburg win. 'Each girl knew their role. That they had to come out and play really hard and they did.'
The win was hyper critical for the Highlanders in another way, as they will be able to control their own fate in the league race. They will travel to Grafton at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29, and then will host Germantown at the same time on Tuesday, Feb. 2.
Homestead lost to both teams the first time in league play.
'We're getting to the point where you can see it in the girls in spurts, the idea of playing as a team,' said Wolf. 'Cedarburg was as close as we came to playing an entire game together as a team. You do that on a regular basis, you'll always be in the game. You'll always have a chance.'
Meanwhile, McKenna said the Highlanders laid the foundation for the big win with their tough seven-point loss to a strong Wisconsin Lutheran team on Jan. 19.
'We really played well that game (Lutheran),' he said. 'We played well enough to win. We just gave up too many second-chance points that night because we were playing zone, but I thought we had a good matchup against Cedarburg with similar style players. The kids have taken a big step forward with this win. It was huge.
'It's taken us awhile to get to this point. I just hope it's not an aberration.'
The Highlanders (3-4, 3-9) will entertain Grafton at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29, before visiting Germantown (6-1 in league) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2.
Homestead's boys were locked tight with Cedarburg (6-1) the whole game, leading 26-23 at the break. In the second half, Homestead built a five point lead at a couple of points while the Bulldogs went up three at one point.
It was tied coming down the stretch and Cedarburg had the last shot with the score tied at 51-51, but they had to rush it and it was off the mark. In the first overtime, it was a similar showing and again the Bulldogs had the last shot, but again it was rushed and off the mark.
In the second overtime, McKenna said Jack Quinlevan, Jack Popp and Jacob Urban all came up with big shots and free throws as the Highlanders outscored the Bulldogs, 6-2, in the final session.
'It wasn't just one player,' said McKenna. 'We had some good looks and we finished them.'
Popp had arguably his best game since his recent return from a broken arm as he had 17 points while Urban had 13 and Taejuan Johnson and Noah Check had 12 each. Bulldog star John Diener had 27 points but McKenna said he had to work for them against tight defense from Johnson and Popp.
'It's taken awhile to figure out who we are,' said McKenna, 'but here we are. We were close to Lutheran and we pulled this one out. Teams are now going to have to take a serious look at us now.'
While they are playing as a team now, Wolf just wishes her girls squad could shoot a little better and finish off games with a little more alacrity.
They had a 27-20 lead at the break on Cedarburg and held a small advantage for most of the second half. It could have been considerably larger if the Highlanders could have hit their free throws. As it was, they were just 10-of-21 for the game, including just 2-of-10 down the stretch when they were trying to protect the lead.
Finally, guard Christal Hearn hit one of two with just seconds to go to make it a three-point game. The Bulldogs rushed the ball up the court but the shot was off the mark.
Forward Chloe Marotta led the way with 13 points while Mary Kate Simon had 11 and Emily Polk eight.
'I thought we did a pretty good job defensively,' said Wolf. 'We made them work hard on their possessions while we were able to get a couple of easy baskets off of turnovers. We were finally turning defense into some offense.'
Taylor McIlwraith was praised for her efforts.
Wolf is now pleased that the Highlanders have some level of control in their fate.
'We started 0-2 in conference play,' she said, 'so we've approached every conference game since then with the attitude that we're playing for a conference championship this night.'