With a largely new cast working around star junior forward Chloe Marotta, Homestead girls basketball coach Corey Wolf had an idea there would be a few too many interesting evenings this season.
Such was the case when the Highlanders couldn't quite hold a late lead against North Shore Conference rival Grafton on Dec. 2 and then had to go into overtime to beat the stubborn Black Hawks, 53-49.
"We led the whole way but then lost in the final two minutes, and they tied it with two free throws with about 30 seconds to go," Wolf said. "We had a shot at the end, but it didn't go down.
"Then in the overtime, we got a couple of good possessions and got the lead out to six. Then we hit our free throws. Emily Polk hit some really big free throws. It was just one of those games. They matched up really well with us because we looked at them on film. They just do things that we struggle with."
But still, it was a "W" for the Highlanders in their North Shore opener and improved them to 2-0 overall. It was a needed boost in confidence as they prepare for their toughest test so far. They will host three-time North Shore Conference champion and 4-0 Germantown in a 7:30 p.m. test Friday, Dec. 9.
The Highlanders tried to chase down the Warhawks last year with a more veteran team but came up just a little short. Hard-charging and fast-paced Germantown opened its North Shore season with routs of Milwaukee Lutheran and Nicolet.
"They are just such a tough team to prepare for," Wolf said. "What they do is so hard to simulate. They are just so tough, and they are always after you, every possession. You really have to see it up close to really understand it."
Wolf maintains hope behind the growing leadership skills of Now All-Suburban forward Marotta.
"She's become a phenomenal leader," Wolf said, "on the floor and and off the court. It's a very encouraging thing to see. She's always talking and makes a point of telling someone when they've done something good. She's also improved as a player, too, and like always, she's getting a lot of attention. Teams are very physical with her, but she's made adjustments."
What's helping in the early going, Wolf said, is the emergence of some teammates who can hit some shots around her and some others with good passing skills.
Marotta got such help against Grafton. She scored 18 points, and Sam Crivello helped out with 13. No one else scored more than five, but eight other players found the scorebook. Homestead hit 13 of 20 of its free throws, as Marotta had 5-of-7 and Olivia Wasserman downed 4-of-4.
Sophomore guard Hannah Belanger led Grafton with 22 points.