Cudahy — Perhaps the most notable thing about the basket was that it came in the second half.
Cudahy junior Taylor Gradinjan entered the night needing just three points to tie her mom, Shelly (Plath), in second place on the school's career scoring leaderboard. By halftime against Pewaukee on Jan. 25, she had just one point, and the Pirates had taken a lead as large as 23 points in the first half.
The second half was another story. Gradinjan's 3-pointer with 4:30 to play in the third quarter began a 15-0 rally that put the Packers right back into the game, though unbeaten Pewaukee ultimately pulled away for a 60-52 victory.
"I always tease Taylor about if we had the 3-point shot when I was in high school, it would be totally different," Shelly said with a laugh.
With still a month remaining in her third season with the Cudahy varsity, Gradinjan - who finished the game against Pewaukee with 18 points - is points behind Aimee Lockwood, who graduated in 2007 with 1,237 points to her name. It's a mark she could conceivably eclipse this year and will almost certainly bypass in her senior season.
"I'm pretty excited about how the season has been so far," Taylor said. "The only games we lost were to really good teams, but they were close enough where I think we could have gotten them. I think if we had played the first half normally (against Pewaukee), we could have beaten them. Everybody's working well together. We're finally coming together with our new coach and everything, so that's working out.
"For me in general, I'm pretty happy with how I'm doing. I feel like I could be playing a little bit better. I haven't had one of those all-star games yet that I've expected, but it's fun finally being an upperclassmen because I can take over when I need to."
It's not like Gradinjan (pronounced Grad-ih-jin) struggled to take over games since her arrival. She cleared 20 points in seven games as a freshman and 12 more times in her sophomore year, while the Packers compiled a 32-16 record in those first two years. Under first-year coach Adam Stranc, the team held an entering last weekend, and Gradinjan averages 19.4 points per game.
"It was easy as a freshman," Gradinjan said. "With Kelly (Wilde) and all the older girls, it seems like I was twice as open. People didn't know me yet, so things were there. I didn't have to do anything for it. It's still not hard to make because I'm stronger and taller and gained more skills (since then)."
Her arrival coincided beautifully with the departure of Lockwood, who had passed Taylor's mom as the school's all-time leading scorer midway through her senior season.
"I had it for 20-some years, so it's about time," said Shelly, who graduated from Cudahy in 1983 and spent one year playing basketball at North Dakota State. "The amount of talent that the girls game has now is far more than back when I was playing. I'm not saying the girls didn't have talent (then), but there are so many girls that have talent (now)."
Shelly, who called herself the "perfect tomboy" during her youth, also played softball at CHS but found basketball was her best sport.
"I used to shoot around for hours when I was little," Shelly said. "My dad said, 'As soon as you could throw ball, we could tell you were going to be good at 5-years-old.' "
But Shelly admits her daughter might be better than she was.
"I'm extremely proud of her," Shelly said. "I get all nervous when they're out there, but it's fun to watch."
Like mother, like daughter
Taylor said her strength and understanding of the game has allowed her to excel at the high school level, and her mother had a lot to do with the latter part.
"She taught me a lot," Taylor said. "She always tells me what I can do better after a game, believe me."
Gradinjan isn't sure on a college destination just yet. She loves the idea of the University of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin-Milwaukee has already verbally offered her a scholarship. Scouts from Bradley and UW-Green Bay attended the loss to Pewaukee.
"I might want to go to Wisconsin, but I don't know because I don't like winter," Gradinjan said with a chuckle. "I don't even know if I can go that far away."
As part of a family tradition at Cudahy, she could go anywhere in the country and still have a place back home.
Cudahy's all-time girls scoring leaders:
|Aimee Lockwood (03-07)||1,237|
|Taylor Gradinjan (08-present)||1,086|
|Shelly Plath (79-83)||1,071|
|Tasha Treiner (00-04)||1,048|
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