With his young team being just a bit over-enthusiastic, first-year Nicolet boys basketball coach Al Hanson decided to slow things down a little when the Knights took on Grafton in a North Shore Conference game on Dec. 9.
The result was a stifling second-half effort that allowed the Knights to erase a six-point deficit and pull away for a 42-37 victory to break a three-game losing streak and even their overall record at 3-3.
"We really wanted to cut down on our turnovers and slow things down," Hanson said. "We wanted the kids to value the possession a little more. We also had some foul trouble. But the kids adjusted well. We did a great job defensively in the second half. We really turned up the intensity, and we cleaned up on the boards."
The win also evened the Knights' North Shore Conference record at 1-1. They hosted archrival Whitefish Bay on Dec. 13 and then will host league favorite Cedarburg in a 7:30 p.m. contest Friday, Dec. 16. It was a good rebound from the turnover-marred 67-60 nonconference loss to Rufus King on Dec. 6.
Nicolet fell behind, 23-17, to the Black Hawks on Dec. 9 but outscored them, 25-14, in the second half to pull away for the win.
Hanson said it was a gradual process that involved not only the Knights picking up the defensive intensity but also getting to the line far more often than Grafton (25 attempts to nine).
Hanson said there was no clear moment when the Knights pulled away but noted senior forward Jayden Hardy was very active, hitting the offensive boards and putting in a couple of key putbacks.
He would lead all scorers with 18 points. Hanson said that it was a good comeback for Hardy, who had turnover problems in the loss to King.
Hardy got help from freshman post Jamari Sibley, who continued his strong early start to the season with 12 points.
"We're always preaching consistency to Jayden," Hanson said.
Nicolet could have made its life a little easier by hitting a higher percentage from the foul line (14-of-25). Hanson said the foul line is a "work in process."
In the loss to King, the Knights were outscored, 29-23, in the second half, as junior forward forward Jack Brahm led the way with 22, sophomore guard Robert Behl had 11 and senior forward Isaiah Glidden 7.
Hanson said Brahm is really starting to figure things out.
"He's turning up the intensity on the offensive glass," Hanson said.
Overall, the busy early schedule has been good for the team, he added.
"The guys are starting to get more comfortable with one another," Hanson said. "We're making progress any way we can."