The sixth-seeded Homestead girls basketball team easily took down visiting Waukesha South, 56-33, in Friday night's WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal matchup.
The win sets up Homestead's (17-6) third contest this season with Germantown (19-4), the No. 3-seeded North Shore Conference champion. The two teams split their regular season games, with the Highlanders most recently winning a 78-68 matchup on Feb. 2. The Warhawks will host Saturday's game at 7 p.m.
'This is my first playoff win on varsity,' Homestead senior Taylor McIlwraith said. 'So I'm glad I got one, but Germantown's gym is always packed. It can get into your head a little bit, so you need to stay focused in games like that. We'd like to see our fans pack the gym, but a noisy gym is always more fun than a quiet one.'
Homestead's only troubles came in an opening 4-0 deficit, but the Highlanders used separate first-half runs of 17-0 and 16-0 to put the Blackshirts away early. Homestead built a 39-10 lead at halftime.
When Homestead went less aggressive and played reserves in the second half, South managed a 23-17 advantage.
The Highlanders were a big enough obstacle for No. 11-seeded Waukesha South (10-13). It didn't help when standout senior guard Emily Schumacher came down with the flu this week and fought just to get on the court Friday night.
'It's just a shame,' South head coach Paul Daring said. 'She's just not herself. This was her first day back, so obviously she's not at full strength. You just don't like to see a player like her go out like that.'
The Highlanders prepared all week for Schumacher, and the work paid off – illness and defense kept her scoreless.
'Schumacher's an amazing player,' McIlwraith said. 'We watched film all week and whenever there was a great pass or an incredible shot, it was her. So to hold her scoreless is something to be proud of.'
Although Darling would have preferred a stronger showing, he was optimistic about the future of the program.
'We have a lot of young players,' he said. 'We need to teach them the value of a possession – that each one counts. But we have some pieces to work with, and I think we have a pretty bright future here.'
Sophomore forward Sabrina Andringa's game-high 11 points led South. Homestead guard Chloe Marotta was the game's only other player in double figures, with 10 points.
With the playoff drought now out of Homestead's way, Germantown provides a litmus test to see how far the Highlanders have come. Homestead couldn't be playing riding a bigger wave. Over their current four-game winning streak, they're outscoring opponents by an average of 66-32. But the Highlanders don't expect another lopsided contest in Germantown.
'We know it's probably going to be a different game,' McIlwraith said. 'But if we approach it the same way as we did tonight and play as hard as we have been, I think we can find a way to win and that's all you can ask.'
'It's a team we know very well,' Homestead head coach Corey Wolf said. 'Whenever you play Germantown, you have to be able to match their toughness. They thrive off playing tough. If we can match them there, it should be a great game.'