By Rich Palzewic
SUAMICO – After a blowout loss to De Pere — the No. 1 ranked Division 1 team in the state — on Dec. 13, the Bay Port boys’ basketball team seems to have righted the ship.
Fueled by a trio of players scoring in double digits, the Pirates won their fifth consecutive game on Jan. 10 with a 76-62 victory over Green Bay Preble in Fox River Classic Conference (FRCC) action at Bay Port High School.
AJ Lieuwen led the Pirates (8-2 overall, 5-1 FRCC) with 19 points, while Jayden Hackett and Vince Vandervest each added 13.
Sophomore Ty Gerard led the Hornets (4-7, 2-4) with 19 points, while Anthony Cortes-Buenrostro (15) and Jack Thorpe (14) also scored in double digits.
“I give Preble a lot of credit,” Bay Port coach Nate Rykal said. “They struggled against Sheboygan South (Jan. 6 in a 49-37 loss) — they didn’t shoot well in that game. They shot a lot better against us and played well. We came out a bit flat and didn’t have much intensity. We’re Bay Port — we get every team’s best shot, so we have to bring it right away. We only had eight turnovers, but I think overall, we’re dribbling the ball too much.”
After Mason Cornette — who ended with nine points on three 3-pointers — began the game by hitting a shot from beyond the arc, the Pirates edged the lead to 10-6 a few minutes into the contest.
From there, Preble responded with an 11-0 run to go up 17-10. During the surge, Cortes-Buenrostro hit a pair of 3-pointers.
“We knew Bay Port would be tough and physical,” Preble coach Andy Bobholz said. “We wanted to play them tough, and I think we did that. We’re looking for more consistency. We’re capable of shooting well, so we’ve already moved on from the South game.”
Bay Port ended the first half on a 30-13 run to grab a 10-point lead, 40-30, at halftime.
Leading 33-28 a few minutes before halftime, Vandervest hammered home a dunk off a rebound, bringing the crowd to its feet.
Rykal said Vandervest seems to be fully recovered from an ankle injury that limited his minutes early in the season.
“Vince has gotten a lot better,” he said. “He’s playing more aggressively. He was a little timid early in the season with the ankle. His dunk was sweet.”
The Hornets came within 56-50 halfway through the second half, but the Pirates regained control by scoring 13 of the next 15 points to go up 69-52.
“I felt like we were in control of the game in the second half,” Rykal said. “We rebounded well and limited Preble to one shot — for the most part.”
A big highlight for the Hornets was Gerard, who was 8 of 17 overall, including 3 of 7 from beyond the arc.
“He’s come in and absorbed himself into the team — the kids love him,” Bobholz said. “He was a bit tentative coming into the season, but during the last few games, he’s stepped up and is gaining confidence.”
During its five-game winning streak, Bay Port has beaten Ashwaubenon, Appleton East, Green Bay Southwest, Pulaski and now Preble.
“You obviously aren’t playing De Pere every night,” Rykal said. “Southwest is a good team and Pulaski and Preble are scrappy. We have some tough teams in our league.”
The Pirates will get another chance at De Pere on Jan. 24.
By Rich Palzewic