Former Nicolet all-state basketball player, coach of the 2011 state championship Knights basketball team and Nicolet Hall of Famer Corey Bronson Wolf knows excellence when she sees it.
And in her current role as coach of a good Homestead girls hoops squad, she saw it up close and personal when her otherwise sound Highlanders were soundly pasted by unbeaten and top-ranked Arrowhead, 83-59, in the semifinals of the Oshkosh West Holiday Classic on Dec. 27.
"They're good; they're really good," Wolf said. "They just play so hard. Their intensity is off the charts. They're guards are big and physical, and they just play at a different level. Their toughness is amazing. Their kids are almost playing at a collegiate level."
After that eye-opening experience, the Highlanders succeeded in bouncing back with a 71-52 win over Appleton Xavier in the consolation game on Dec. 28.
The split left the Highlanders at 6-2 overall.
They remain in a tie for third in the North Shore Conference race with Whitefish Bay at 3-1. They will visit Nicolet in the opener of a girl-boy twinbill at 5:45 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6, before hosting powerful nonconference foe Milwaukee Rufus King in a 7:30 p.m. contest Tuesday, Jan. 10.
Wolf would like the team to lift its level of play as it gets into the new year's portion of its schedule.
Because even though the Highlanders won comfortably over Xavier, there were aspects of the game that bothered her more than what she saw in the Arrowhead contest. Homestead took a 33-22 lead at the half and then held on from there.
"We struggled in that game," she said. "Maybe it was playing back-to-back games. Maybe we were a little beat up from the previous day, but I was glad we got the job done because we came out a little flat."
All-star forward Chloe Marotta led the way with 22 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, six steals and three blocks, while Emily Polk had 11 points and three assists; Grace Crowley 10 points and four assists; and Sam Crivello 9 points.
Wolf continues to be impressed by the versatility of Marotta.
"She just plays so hard and wants to win so badly," she said. "She does a little bit of everything."
Wolf also praised the efforts of Polk and Sam Crivello.
Details were spare from the Arrowhead game as Crivello led the way with 21 points, and Marotta had 14. Olivia Wasserman added 7 points and 10 rebounds, while Polk had four assists and three steals and Polk five assists.
Wolf looked at the loss as a lesson.
"We have a lot of young, inexperienced players," she said, "and I can talk about intensity and toughness to them all I want, but until they see it and experience it themselves, they just don't know what it's like. This was good, though. We got to see teams we don't normally see. We stayed overnight, bonded a little and shopped a little."