Shorewood girls win first hoops title in 42 years
Success has been four years in the making
They probably shouldn't have done it, but the Shorewood girls basketball team couldn't help themselves.
It was just after their 49-36 victory over Whitnall on Feb. 14 when a little celebration occurred on the bus ride home. The Greyhounds had all but clinched the Woodland Conference East Division title, their first conference crown of any kind since 1972 when someone laughed and a few bags and packages were opened.
"And out came some plastic champagne glasses and the kids poured nonalcoholic sparkling juice into them and we toasted our success," chuckled fourth-year coach Jeff Eimers.
When it takes 42 years to achieve something, you should celebrate in style.
The Greyhounds went on to cement that title with wins over South Milwaukee on Feb. 18 (47-43) and Greenfield (57-43) before falling to Western Division power Pewaukee on Monday (57-31).
They have a record 16-5 overall mark and closed out their regular season against Cudahy on Wednesday. They earned the third seed in their portion of the WIAA Division 2 Brookfield Central sectional. Their success earned them a first-round bye and then a regional semifinal home game against the winner of Milwaukee Madison and Wauwatosa West on March 7.
If they win that, they would likely get a chance at a rematch with area rival Whitefish Bay in a regional final on March 8. The Greyhounds lost a tough decision to the Blue Dukes earlier this season.
All these grand and glorious things would have seemed impertinent and impossible to think about much less achieve four years ago when Eimers came over to clean up a decade-long mess that included a sad 40-plus game losing streak.
"The first thing we had to do was try and clean up the culture," Eimers said. "The girls (at that time) weren't very dedicated. They missed practices. The season before I got there I think there were about 10 or 11 girls in the entire program.
"We could barely scrape together a varsity team."
His first year he scored a coup when top-flight athlete Mary Luba (now a soccer player at Marquette), who had gone out for basketball her freshmen year but not her sophomore or junior seasons, came back her senior year to see if she could help the rebuilding program.
She became the top scorer and added instant credibility to the program and made it cool for other athletes to come out.
Then in Eimers' second year, the juniors who are the current core of the team, people like his daughter, Ashley, Aisling Moloney and Grace Hayes, all arrived on the scene.
Last year, Robbie Holland earned first team all-conference as the team improved to a respectable 12-11 and with the top teams in the Woodland East, Whitnall, South Milwaukee and others all hit hard by graduation, the Greyhounds found themselves in the odd position of divisional favorite.
"Every coach picked us to win it," coach Eimers said. "We talked to the girls, because it's one thing to go into a game as an underdog, but quite another to be a favorite. All of a sudden we went to becoming the team everybody wanted to beat."
But his team has responded to the challenge. Of their 16 wins so far this season, 14 of them have been by 10 or more points.
"Not everyone has been easy," coach Eimers said. "We'd often go into the fourth quarter with something like a four-point lead and then pull away."
They have achieved this goal without senior forward Holland, who spent most of the season on the bench with a knee injury. She has just recently been cleared to play.
"With her back, we're as strong as we've been all season," coach Eimers said.
In her absence, players like Annie Leo, Sara Mackowski, Megan Eimers (Ashley's younger sister) and Meghan Curtis, have all come through and sophomore forward Jada Stackhouse has bloomed into a star.
"We needed them to come through," coach Eimers said, "because our margin for error is so small."
Challenges remain. The Greyhounds have hit a good level but now the next plateau is to become seriously competitive with Woodland West teams like Pewaukee, New Berlin Eisenhower and New Berlin West.
Furthermore, things have not improved as quickly on the youth level as coach Eimers would like.
"We still have work to do," he said.
But still, it is time to celebrate.
"I took the girls to look at the (conference championship banner) and we pointed to the number (1972)," he said. "Now there's a new number."
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