Sussex Hamilton girls basketball coach Dan Carey admits that his team is still getting used to the fact that tough-as-nails forward Jenny Shernell is gone for the season due to a knee injury.
But Carey said the erratic nature of the offense for the Greater Metro Conference-leading Chargers' Tuesday night against archrival Menomonee Falls had more to do with the tenacity of their rival and basic inconsistency than any one player's absence.
Still, Hamilton took control midway through the first quarter and never let go, as the lead never fell below six points in the second half of a 48-37 decision.
"We needed to find a rhythm to our offense," said Carey, "but a lot of credit for that not happening tonight was Craig (Falls' coach Amundson) and his team. They took us out of a lot of the things we like to do and made it difficult."
But still, third-ranked in state Hamilton was able to secure a season sweep over the Indians as they improved to 11-0 in Greater Metro Conference play and 18-1 overall while Falls fell to 5-6 and 10-9, respectively.
Falls' defense validated Carey's assertions early on, forcing several Charger turnovers and cashing in two sets of free throws by Haley Precia and Erin Crownover, respectively, to take a 4-0 lead.
But that would be the highwater point for Falls, as the Chargers started forcing turnovers and went on an 11-2 to take control. All-world forward Mackenzie Latt had eight points in the run.
"It's always easier to score points when she's in the line-up," chuckled Carey. Latt just recently went over 1,000 points for her career.
The score was 13-9 in favor of Hamilton at the quarter, as the Indians hit only one of 11 shots from the field in the period as opposed to five of 12 for the Chargers.
A cat-and-mouse game ensued in the second quarter, as Hamilton gradually expanded the advantage. Falls was able to cut it to 19-15 at one point, but a backdoor cut by Latt and a 3-pointer from the wing by freshman guard Taylor Klug made it 26-17 with 2:05 left. It 26-19 at the break.
Hamilton quickly got the lead up to 10 in the third quarter thanks in part to a three from Emily Kneer and post shot from Latt, but Falls went on a 6-2 run to cut it to 33-27 with 3:37 left in the period. A steal and lay-up by Mikayla Robertson provided the final part of that outburst for Falls.
But after a three from the Chargers' Klug improved the lead to 36-27 with 3:07 left in the third, the lights went out on the offense for both teams for over five minutes as only a free throw by the Indians' Robertson filtered the darkness.
Finally, Hamilton forward Tristen Hayes hit two free throws at the 5:56 mark of the fourth. Shortly thereafter, the Chargers bumped the margin up to 42-30 as Klug hit a driving lay-up and Latt drained two free throws.
The lead never dropped below nine after that. Falls, which was an automatic nine of 10 from the foul line in the first half, hurt its chances greatly in the second 16 minutes by hitting only seven of 15 charity tosses. Hamilton would finish 10 of 12 from the line for the game.
Carey said getting a healthy roster would help the offensive continuity.
"We've had a very disjointed roster all season," he said. "Illness, injury, I don't think we've had all 14 players healthy for a practice all winter. Still, it's a testament to our players' character and togetherness that we are where we are."
"We're just finding ways to win."
Latt finished with 19 points to lead all scorers and Klug helped her out with 15, while Falls was led by Robertson with 15 and Crownover with 14.
"We knew that this would be a tough place to get a win in (the Falls' gym)," said Carey, "but our kids just fought and fought for 32 minutes. They did a nice job of just getting to the next play."
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