Shorewood girls spoil opening night for Brown Deer's new court
Facility comes off shining
There have been other games, other events in the several months since the shiny new Brown Deer Novak Family Field House has been open (numerous NY2LA tourney games leap to mind).
But Dec. 3 was still a special night as it marked the first time that a Falcons varsity team played inside the facility.
And Brown Deer girls coach Vinnie Murray just wishes his squad could have christened the place more appropriately in their season-opener as they fell to area rivals Shorewood, 42-30.
"I felt that we played pretty well. We played hard right until the end and had them on their heels a bit," he said. "...The kids were excited. It was the combination of the new place and first game jitters. It sure would have been nice to get a win, just to gain some confidence."
Shorewood coach Jeff Eimers was happy with the victory and to be part of the whole process.
"That new place of theirs is a very premium place," he said.
Brown Deer Athletic Director Mike Novak appreciated the compliment and was pleased that the program was able to ease into the process of fully breaking in the showpiece of the revitalized campus.
"With a new facility it's a matter of finding out what the needs are," he said. "You look for feedback from the support workers and try to find out what you can do to make it a better experience for everyone.
"Use our imaginations. What we noticed mostly are a lot of small, detail things. Just to improve the efficiency. Things like where the ticket table sits and how traffic patterns develop. It was nice to warm up with a little less crowded girls game on a Tuesday night. Still, it was very exciting and required a little extra planning."
The Falcons boys got their chance to officially play on their home court Friday after four road games and won a thriller over Greendale (see separate story).
Tweaking things as they go
So now that this first full week of home action is over, how does Novak, whose family name is on the facility, feel about how it held up?
"We're still looking to help people out, make it easier for them," he said. "We're putting in extra signage, trying to help people out. We've also got it booked up for awhile with quite a few activities. We'll make improvements as we go along.
"Look to transfer some of the signage from the old gym, which is now our seventh- and eighth-grade gym. We're not in any great hurry to do things. We just want to make sure that things are done right."
The field house, which will also host track meets in the spring, got a heavy unofficial break-in period over the summer as it hosted the NY2LA youth tournaments in April, May and July. One weekend, Novak estimated that when the bleachers were pulled in and the various cross-courts were used, there were 198 games played on one of those weekends.
The facility has also caught the attention of the WIAA and Brown Deer has been awarded a WIAA Division 2 sectional game come March.
"We'll still be tweaking things until then," Novak said, "continue to improve the experience."
While the home teams continue to look for wins on their new court.
Shorewood (3-0) went up 18-10 at the half on Brown Deer on Dec. 3, which also dropped a 68-62 road decision to Greendale on Friday. Murray said poor shooting hurt the Falcons at the beginning and so did poor rebounding.
"I think they must have scored 14 points off of missed free-throw rebounds alone," he said.
But the Falcons (0-2) turned in what Murray called "the best defensive effort since he's been here" and kept the game close. Brown Deer closed the gap to 24-18 at the end of three.
Fouls add up for both squads
Fouls piled up for both teams but Brown Deer was still able to cut it down to five on a couple of occasions. A key moment came with about six minutes remaining with the Greyhounds nursing a five-point lead. Brown Deer guard Valerie Whiyee drove in, drew contact with Shorewood's Jada Stackhouse and made the shot, but it was waved off for a charge.
Furthermore, it was Whiyee's fifth foul. If it had gone for the tall and athletic Stackhouse, it would have been an "and one" situation, the margin would have been that much closer and Stackhouse would have been the one who fouled out.
Compounding the situation, immediately after the play, the Greyhounds' Grace Hayes came down and hit the team's only three-pointer of the game to boost the margin back to comfortable levels again.
Brown Deer was never able to threaten again.
"That was a key play," Eimers said. "It was a strange game. We were in foul trouble the whole game. I think we had four of five starters with two fouls each in the first half and I think we finished the game with three starters with four fouls."
The Greyhounds also did not help themselves by hitting just nine-of-19 free throws while the Falcons weren't much better at 10 of 20.
Eimers praised Brown Deer's preparation for the game.
"It's always a tough matchup for us," he said. "They were nose to nose on us defensively and very physical which we normally don't play well against."
Murray said his team's shooting problems weren't caused so much by the sight lines of the new facility as much as by nerves at playing in a new place.
"I was really pleased with our effort. We really tried defensively," Murray said. "If we had just knocked down a few shots that would have helped out so much."
Stackhouse led the Greyhounds with 10, while Ashley Eimers and Aisling Moloney had eight apiece. Imani Stingley had 11 for Brown Deer while Kendall Laurent contributed six. Murray said that Joyce Biddle played great defense.
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