The 57-39 home defeat to Cudahy on Jan. 11 and the discouraging 45-42 road loss to Whitnall two days later were two of the most disappointing showings that Shorewood girls basketball coach Jeff Eimers has endured in his recent successful run with the Greyhounds.
That's why the 40-34 road win over Cudahy in the rematch on Jan. 20 is going down as one of the team's most satisfying victories, Eimers said.
"Absolutely," he said. "As I told the girls before the game, it was a do-or-die situation. We had to win this if we wanted to have any chance of taking the (Woodland East) division again.
"It was a must-win and one I'd rate it as a top victory in the program history. We showed a lot of heart in this one."
As it stands, winning a fourth consecutive divisional title is still going to be an uphill battle for the Greyhounds. In a highly jumbled divisional race, they currently sit second at 5-4, behind Whitnall (5-3) and just ahead of Cudahy and Greendale (both 4-5).
Furthermore, after a Jan. 25 contest with area rival Brown Deer, Shorewood (9-5 overall), has a brutal schedule as it has to face Woodland West powers New Berlin Eisenhower (on the road) on Friday, Jan. 27, New Berlin West (on the road) on Jan. 31 and Pewaukee (at home) on Feb. 3. Further, one starter (Olivia Kessenich) is likely to miss at least a couple of games with an ankle injury.
Still, Eimers is retaining a sense of optimism.
"A couple of weeks ago, people thought we might have been done, but there is still a glimmer of hope," he said.
A glimmer, because Eimers took a chance on a unique and challenging second-half strategy against Cudahy.
The Greyhounds began in a 1-2-2 zone and stymied the Packers early on, breaking out to a 14-3 lead at one point. The advantage eventually settled in at 19-10 at the half.
But the Greyhounds hit a cold spot offensively early in the second session as Cudahy went on an 8-0 run to get back into the game, but behind two big 3-pointers and a couple of free throws from Kessenich, Shorewood got the lead back to a somewhat comfortable range and was not really challenged late in the second half.
Eimers' second half strategy was simple. His best chance to win, he thought, was to have the starters play almost the entire session.
"I told them at the half that they had to be ready to go for awhile," he said. "It was just too important a game. We weren't in a lot of foul trouble, and I had saved our timeouts (to give the kids a few breaks). The girls just sucked it up. The starters essentially went the whole way."
Freshman guard Khamya McNeal led the way with 15 points, while Kessenich, who suffered her injury late in the game, had 8. Natalie Tomaszewski added 7 and McKayla McMurry 6.
Eimers was very satisfied with the effort.
"It was a difficult week," he said. "The kids were coming off (semester) exams and were really drained. We had lost that first one to them (the Packers) by 18, but I told them that score was deceptive, that this was still a winnable game, and it was."