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It's easy for a team to show character when it's used to winning.

It is quite another when a team is slogging through a long winter, with one bad loss after another and little else to show.

Any show of character in that situation would be downright impressive.

Color the Nicolet girls basketball team impressive.

The young, small Knights had lost 20 games in a row to start the season before they beat nonconference opponent Badley Tech, 46-28, on Feb. 13, but that wasn't good enough for first-year coach Megan Lund. They penciled in the regular-season finale at home against North Shore Conference opponent Milwaukee Lutheran on Feb. 16 as a major opportunity to really validate the hard work they put in this season.

And despite some wobbly 9-for-23 foul shooting, most of it in the second half, that's what they did, surviving a harrowing finish to pull off a 52-51 victory.

"It was a bigger win than the one against Tech," said Lund. "It was senior and parents' night, and there was a great atmosphere, and we came out with a great attitude and focused. We wanted it for the seniors. We wanted it for each other. We called it our 'nine days of redemption'. Our last chance everyone how much we had improved."

The Knights (2-20) took on West Bend West in a WIAA Division 2 regional quarterfinal game on Feb. 21. If they won that game, they would advance to a regional semifinal on Friday, Feb. 24, at Cedarburg.

"We were so excited about last week," said Lund. "It's been a long and trying season, but the great thing about this group is that they never stopped coming to practice with great attitudes and playing for each other."

They needed that kind of attitude against Lutheran on Feb. 16. They fell behind, 25-22, at the half and then worked hard to earn the win in the second half.

They finally took the lead on a Laura Keyser jumper with about 18 seconds left. Nicolet eventually got the ball back with about seven seconds left and the lead. They were fouled but missed both free throws with Lauren Soyke getting a big offensive rebound.

Lutheran eventually got the ball back with about 0.7 of a second left and the length of the court to go, but Casey O'Hare clinched the win by intercepting the inbounds pass at the buzzer.

Keyser had a huge game for Nicolet with 23 points, while Alexis Haupert and Soyke had 10 each. Lund had an interesting theory about all the missed free throws.

"We haven't been in a lot of games where they were important at the end," she said. "It was just a good thing for them to see how important they are."

She also praised the senior leadership and the team unity.

"We've been building team unity all season," she said. "Play together, play as a team."

Against Tech, a 29-14 second half sealed the victory, as Soyke had 18 points and Jaya Williams 8.

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