The difficult nonconference schedule of the New Berlin Eisenhower girls basketball team will likely pay dividends down the road. But for now, the Lions are experiencing a rare losing streak.
Eisenhower dropped its third consecutive game with a 57-53 loss to nationally-ranked Milwaukee King on Jan. 17, as 14 second-half turnovers proved costly in a game in which the margin for error was so thin.
With its first three-game losing streak since 2013, the Lions sit at 9-4 overall. All four losses are to state-ranked teams: Madison Edgewood (No. 3 in Division 3), Beaver Dam (No. 1 in Division 2), New Berlin West (No. 4 in Division 2) and Milwaukee King (No. 2 in Division 1 and No. 23 in nation by MaxPreps).
"We feel good about the way we are playing," Eisenhower coach Gary Schmidt said. "Now, we are not happy with the losses, but we could have beaten them tonight. We had chances. It was there. It wasn't to be, but hopefully, we will learn something from it and get better as a result."
A 3-pointer by Erin Hedman gave the Lions a 24-19 lead with 6:43 left in the first half, but the Generals followed with a 10-4 run to lead, 29-28. A basket by Jasmyn Somarsignh and two free throws by Julia Hintz gave Eisenhower a 32-29 advantage at the break.
After King scored the first basket of the second half, the Lions scored 6 straight points to go up, 38-31, with 15:01 to play.
Eisenhower then went scoreless for 5 minutes, 26 seconds and committed seven turnovers during an 18-3 run by the Generals that put King in control with a 49-41 lead with 7:40 remaining. King extended its pressure defense in the second half, forcing the Lions into 14 turnovers after they had just three miscues in the first half.
"We just have to take care of the basketball," Schmidt said. "We had a couple of chances, and we turned the ball over. Give them credit for the pressure, but if we take care of the basketball, it is a different ball game. We had a couple of untimely turnovers. That was our demise tonight.
"They certainly extended their pressure, and they tried to double team us a little more after we got some nice backdoor cuts in the first half. We're a young team. We just didn't have our poise. All in all, I thought it was a great effort. It came down to the last possessions."
The Lions, ranked No. 8 in the Division 2 coaches poll, fought their way back and pulled within 53-51 on a pair of free throws by Hintz with 2:31 left. Hannah Plockelman missed a shot for the tie, but King threw the ball away after corralling the rebound, which gave Eisenhower new life.
Hintz got a good look a 3-point attempt that would have put the Lions in front, but it hit the rim and fell off. Eisenhower then had an empty possession down just 54-51, and the Generals closed the game out from the foul line.
Connecting on 10 of 16 shots from the field, Hintz led Eisenhower with 26 points. Olivia Canady and Somarsignh each finished with 8 points, and Hedman scored 6 points.
Eisenhower will look to snap its skid when it plays at Pewaukee at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21. The Lions downed the Pirates, 62-53, on Dec. 23. Pewaukee, ranked No. 9 in Division 2, sits at 5-3 in the Woodland West, two games behind second-place Eisenhower.