It felt just like home for Shorewood girls basketball coach and Iowa native Jeff Eimers when the Greyhounds closed out their regular season with a 73-41 victory over Heritage Christian on Thursday, Feb. 16.
The game was played on the Patriots' home court, the fine little grade-school gym of St. Luke Catholic Church in Brookfield.
"I grew up in a small town in northeast Iowa; I know these style of gyms very well," he said. "I was very comfortable here."
The gym featured only one side of stands, but was otherwise extremely functional. Eimers remembers coaching a grade school team from St. Robert's in Shorewood in what he called "a huge tournament" at St. Luke's about 10 years ago.
The game this night didn't have that much gravitas, but was important to the Patriots as it was their senior night. Coach Pat Hintze happily accorded appropriate honors to both his daughter Grace Hintze and Abby Shane to a cascade of red, white and blue balloons as well as a swell of cheers. Eimers worked with Coach Hintze to fill a gap in the Patriots' schedule so they could get their senior night scheduled.
Shorewood (14-8 overall) tried to be gracious, but facing a small-school opponent (14-7 overall, but only seven total players and none taller than 5-foot-9), Shorewood's advantages quickly became apparent.
The visitors bolted out to a 10-0 lead, and that margin never dropped below eight. The Greyhounds closed the half with a 9-0 run to make it 37-19.
Enthusiastic cheers went up in the second half as Eimers started to utilize the deeper parts of his bench.
When seniors Ashley Kinnard and Elizabeth Krioutchenkov put in hoops on successive possessions, a joyous roar went up from the Shorewood section of fans.
Freshman guard Khamya McNeal continued her sensational season with 20 points, while Olivia Reilly and Natalie Tomaszewski had 14 apiece and Makayla McMurry 10. Eimers said Tomaszewski, a 6-foot-3 junior post who had 21 in a 58-41 victory over Whitnall on Feb. 14, has been playing very well lately.
"Natalie is looking very comfortable (shooting the ball) from all over the court," said Eimers. "She might be our best 3-point shooter."
He was also pleased with how active McMurry, a junior forward, has been on the boards.
"There was no one taking the ball away from her," he said.
Eimers was pleased with the win over Whitnall on Tuesday, Feb. 15, calling it "quite possibly our best game of the year."
The unfortunate thing was that with Cudahy's victory over Greenfield that same night, the Greyhounds' streak of three straight Woodland Conference East Division titles came to an end.
Aside from Tomaszewski, McNeal added 17 points, and McMurry 13 against Whitnall.
Eimers feels very good about how the team is doing heading into the WIAA D2 playoffs which they will open on Friday, Feb. 24, with a home regional semifinal contest, likely against Wisconsin Lutheran.
"We're playing very well right now," he said. "I feel good about our chances."