Whitefish Bay girls basketball coach Greg Capper said "the big picture has now become a very small picture."
Because now the Blue Dukes (21-4), after cruising to a 54-37 WIAA sectional semifinal win over outmatched Wauwatosa West on Thursday night, can put all their focus and energy on the year-in-the-making WIAA D2 sectional final rematch with New Berlin Eisenhower (25-0) at 1p.m. Saturday at Waukesha South.
This year, as last, a state tournament berth will be on the line in the game and this year, same as last, the Blue Dukes will enter as underdogs to the second-ranked in state Lions.
The one thing that will be different from last year's game, however, will be the tremendous motiation Eisenhower will have to atone for the 44-42 upset the Blue Dukes sprung on them in that contest.
"They're going to be determined," said Capper. "They want to get back to state. I expect we will be determined, too. It's just that we're going to no doubt have to weather some early intensity from them."
The Lions advanced with an easy 49-23 trouncing of in-city rival New Berlin West Thursday night.
"That first time last year was so exciting," said sophomore center Maya Jonas, who led four Bay players in double figures with 15 points against Tosa West, "but I expect it to be even more exciting this time because I have a great team around me with great teammates."
It would help the Blue Dukes' cause if they came out with the offensive intensity that they had against West, which they had beaten in a much closer game earlier this season.
That efficiency began immediately Thursday night in the game played out at Waukesha North. Jonas won the tap and got the ball to point guard Elisabeth Johnston, who hit a streaking forward Lindsey Agnew, who cashed an easy lay-up just seven seconds into the game.
That nifty piece of execution began a 12-3 run to start the game, which was stretched to 20-6 at quarter's end. Bay hit six of its first seven shots and was 10 of 16 from the field for the quarter.
"We've had a really good two-three weeks of practice," said Jonas. "Our captains (Johnston, Agnew and Lauren Wigton) have really asked us all to step up and have put a little added pressure on us."
"We were really ready for this game. It had been a long week (of practice), and we wanted to get back out there."
Capper said it was just a matter of time and patience before the Bay offense, which at times has struggled this winter, gathered itself and put itself on near-equal footing with the stout Blue Duke defense.
"I told you that we were young at the beginning of the season," he said. "We had three really good players who gained vital experience with that state trip last year (Jonas, Johnston and Agnew), but we had so many new juniors, new sophomores on the varsity.
"They needed to figure out so many things, including little stuff like the varsity lockerroom, bus rides and how you practice. It was really just a maturation process, and in the last 2 1/2 to three weeks, it really started to click."
Yes, it did, as Bay ran a very efficient offense throughout the first half and carried a 32-15 lead into the break. Almost every basket that they had this night had an assist to it and the Blue Dukes scored as easily in the half-court as they did in transition.
The lead got as great as 21 and never dropped below 14 in the second half.
"We just didn't show up at the start," said a disappointed Trojans coach Ron Gavinski. "We played much better against them the first time around, a seven-point game, but they're a really good team and everytime we made even a little push (in the second half), they answered with a bucket."
Latasha Harmon led West with 11 while Jessica Pike had eight.
Bay had tremendous balance behind Jonas, as Johnston, Agnew and Ava Stock all scored 12 points.
"We talked about this," said Capper. "You can press and run all you want, but eventually teams will force you into the halfcourt. We've worked very hard at getting better at that."
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