Style points don't count for anything at this time of year in basketball.
So that's why Nicolet boys coach Paul Hepp will just breath a sigh of relief and happily walk away with a somewhat-less-than-perfect 53-47 WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal win over Pius XI Tuesday night.
"We'll take the win, but we've got to play better and smarter," he said. "We had too many reach-in fouls and allowed a couple too many easy baskets late . . . but we kept our composure and made just enough plays down the stretch."
The victory advanced the Knights (16-7) to a WIAA regional final on Saturday at Milwaukee South (TBA). The regional champion advances to sectional play on March 11.
Nicolet took the lead on the Popes (8-15) for good with a 9-0 run late in the first quarter, as guard Myles Henry (13 points) had an old-fashioned 3-point play at the heart of the run.
Clem Robinson had 8 points in the period as Nicolet took a 17-11 advantage.
The Knights then managed to keep Pius at arm's length the rest of the game. It was 28-21 at the half and Nicolet managed to stretch the lead to 35-23 early in the third quarter.
But things got tight in the fourth, as both Henry and Tre Kinlow picked up their fourth fouls and the Popes got the margin to four on two occasions, the last time at 45-41 with 2:21 remaining.
Jarel James then took a nice inbounds pass from Henry, scored, was fouled and completed the 3-point play to make it 48-41 with 1:47 left. The lead never dropped below five again.
Robinson led Nicolet with 15, while Kinlow had 10 and James had 8. Pius was led by Carrington Love with 16.
"We'll learn from this," said Hepp.
In other first-round action involving North Shore teams:
Brown Deer 58, Milwaukee Messmer 48: The Falcons advanced to a WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal on Thursday at Whitefish Bay by outscoring Messmer 18-10 in the fourth quarter.
The Bishops helped the Falcons (9-14) by making only five of 16 free throws while Brown Deer was nine of 14. Freshman Jake Schimenz led Brown Deer with 13, as Keone Moore had 12 and Joziah Mallett and Kierre Ogbonna had 11 apiece.
Whitefish Bay 67, Grafton 35: The Blue Dukes (16-7) will host Brown Deer in that 7 p.m. regional semifinal after an easy victory over the Blackhawks.
It was 30-18 at the half and then the Blue Dukes put the game away with a 17-2 run in the third quarter. Bay had 12 players score, led by John Johnston with 17.
Young Coggs Prep 80, Shorewood 73: The youthful Greyhounds (7-16) came up a little short against the top-scoring team in the area (81.1 points per game) as they ended their season in a Division 2 regional quarterfinal. Prep (18-3) advanced to a regional semifinal at top-seeded Port Washington on Thursday.
Cedarburg 69, Homestead 55: Tuesday's Division 1 regional semifinal proved to be the charm for the Bulldogs (12-10) as they beat the Highlanders (11-12) for the first time in three tries this season.
With the win, Cedarburg will advance to a Saturday WIAA regional final at sectional top seed Arrowhead (19-3).
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