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The scores of the recent past were depressing enough.

2013-14: Pius XI 63, Shorewood 16; 2014-2015: Pius XI 52, Shorewood 20; 2015-2016: Pius XI 69, Shorewood 30

And that didn't include the most recent score of 82-45 Pius XI on Dec. 6 of this season.

No, there was no reason to think this rebuilt Shorewood girls basketball team had any reasonable hope of beating powerful Pius XI on the Lady Popes' home court in a WIAA Division 2 regional final on Feb. 25.

Except that the Greyhounds did.

Shorewood rode a 17-3 start, played stout defense, overcame poor free-throw shooting (10-of-27) and got 26 points from fearless freshman guard Khamya McNeal to pull out a stunning 49-40 victory.

Coach Jeff Eimers, whose turnaround efforts in recent years for the previously moribund Shorewood program have included three Woodland Conference East titles and winning records for five straight years, called this win  "the biggest victory we've ever had."

"I couldn't even remember how bad that score was (this season's game)," he said, "Pius is just so good. In the last seven years against them, I think I can remember one decent game. The others weren't even close."

The other interesting thing about Shorewood's win was that it coincided with Woodland East champion Cudahy's upset of New Berlin West that same night. So in one night, the Woodland East, long the doormats of West Division powers like Pius, New Berlin West, Eisenhower and Pewaukee, scored two major blows for its side.

"Woodland East, not so weak anymore," Eimers said, laughing.

The victory, coupled with the 53-28 regional semifinal victory over Wisconsin Lutheran on Feb. 24, also improved the Greyhounds to 16-8. It marked their second regional title in the last four years and launched them into a WIAA sectional semifinal against Tosa East (18-6) at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 2, at West Allis Central.

The winner of that game will advance to a sectional final at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 4, at Brown Deer against the winner of Cudahy (17-7) and New Berlin Eisenhower (19-5). The sectional champion advances to the WIAA State Tournament in Green Bay, March 9-11.

"That's definitely a winnable game," said Eimers of the contest against East. "We'll see what happens on Thursday."

Surprisingly, the Pius game was too. After the fast start, the Greyhounds came back to earth as the Lady Popes closed the gap to 25-23 at the break.

"We gave Pewaukee a good game recently, so we worked hard at the half to convince the girls that they could beat Pius," said Eimers.

What he had working for him was a solid second half trend for the Greyhounds. They lost to Greenfield, Cudahy and Whitnall in the first half of the season and then came back to beat each of them the second time around.

"We had to make them understand how much we were improving," Eimers said.

But they grew a touch wobbly when starting forward Olivia Kessenich picked up her fourth foul with about 14 minutes to go. Eimers sat her until the six minute mark. Meanwhile, starters like McNeal, guard Olivia Reilly, forward McKayla McMurry and center Natalie Tomaszewski were going "Ironman" not subbing out at all.

Senior forward Elizabeth Krioutchenkov also filled in while Kessenich sat out with her fouls and freshman guard Charlotte Lehman also played valuable minutes, banking in a key 3-pointer to give the Greyhounds some cushion.

Then with about eight or nine to go, McNeal stepped up and took over.

"She hit consecutive 3s to put us up," said Eimers. "I put Olivia (Kessenich) back in with about six minutes to go and we got it back up to 10."
Though the free throws were an issue, the Greyhounds were able to keep Pius at bay.

Eimers said he learned a lesson defensively in the bad first game loss to Pius. He played strictly man this time around as opposed to the zone the Lady Popes had peppered with 3-pointers in the earlier contest.

He also said the 6-3 Tomaszewski was a huge force under the basket, making it difficult for Pius to score inside. She even came up with a leaping interception of a pass when Pius had cut the lead to three and was threatening to make it even closer.

"She went up like a gazelle," said Eimers. "It was a huge, huge play. Our philosophy for the game, was that we were going to stick with them (in a man defense) and then have Natalie stick back there (under the basket) in case they got through. Natalie only had two points, but she was oh so effective defensively."

McNeal hit five 3-pointers en route to 26 points while Reilly and McMurry had six each to lead Shorewood.

The Greyhounds prepped with the surprisingly easy win over Lutheran in the regional semifinal. A 34-2 first half did the trick.

McNeal had 22 points, Kessenich 10 and Tomaszewski 8.

It all adds up to another week of basketball for the Greyhounds.

"Tom Hayes (a parent of a recent player) sent me a funny text," said Eimers. "It said 'Jeff, I thought I had a dream that Shorewood beat Pius' (lol)"

Turned out it was no dream.

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