One way for a new coach to get things off on the right foot is to win your first major rivalry game.
Consider that task done for new Nicolet boys basketball coach Al Hanson, whose team survived an 84-76 overtime thriller with Whitefish Bay on Dec. 13.
"Oh man, was that exciting," Hanson said, "and what a big win for our program. We were down 10 with seven minutes to go (in regulation), but we managed to change it around."
The win improved the Knights to 4-3 overall and 2-1 in the North Shore, while Bay fell to 1-2 and 1-3 overall.
Both teams had games snowed out on Dec. 16. Bay made up its game with Germantown on Dec. 20, while Nicolet will make up its contest with NSC leader Cedarburg on Jan. 11.
Nicolet will take part in the Cudahy Southside Classic, Dec. 27 and 28, playing Waukesha West and Cudahy, respectively, while Bay took on Milwaukee King on Dec. 21 and then will play Brookfield Central at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 27, in the WBY Shootout at Concordia in Mequon.
Hanson is looking forward to the opportunities ahead for the still-young Knights.
"The Cedarburg game being postponed actually gave us a few extra days to get ready (for the Southside Classic), and the kids are pretty excited to have a chance to play Cedarburg, have a chance for first place," he said. "That's pretty big for us."
As was the victory over Bay, which Hanson said was a game of surges and counter-surges. The first half went back and forth with the Knights holding a tenuous 39-37 advantage at the break. The Blue Dukes, however, went on a 13-0 surge early in the second session to build that 10-point lead Hanson alluded to.
"We responded and came back," Hanson said, "but we missed a lot of free throws that could have made it easier on ourselves."
The Knights were 20-of-35 from the foul line, as opposed to 11-of-16 for the Blue Dukes.
Nicolet had the last possession of regulation with the score tied at 72-72, but a floater in the lane for the win was off the mark.
In OT, forward Isaiah Glidden (hame-high 23 points) hit a big 3-pointer to gave the Knights the lead for good. Then the Knights got a series of stops and hit enough free throws to keep the Blue Dukes at bay.
"Isaiah dislocated his finger in the first game, but now things are starting to come around for him," Hanson said.
Sophomore guard Robert Behl helped out with 14 points, while Jayden Hardy had 13, Jamari Sibley 12, Jack Brahm 9 and Jeremy Ninham 8.
Sophomore guards Behl and Sonny Phinisee came in for great praise from Hanson.
Five different people hit a combined eight 3-pointers for the Knights.
Bay was led by Demetrius Johnson with 18 points, while Cade Garcia had 15, Xavier Johnson 14 and Harry Grams 12. Five different players hit seven 3s for the Blue Dukes.
Hanson said the crowd was nice and had good energy for a school night. The team's newfound success is drawing attention, Hanson said.
"The kids are really starting to catch onto to things," he said. "We're getting more comfortable with ourselves. We had that big win over Grafton recently where the guys overcame some adversity and here we did it again. They're starting to understand what's expected of them."