For a half on Friday night, the Oak Creek boys basketball team won the battle of tempo with its host Franklin, working hard and earning a 21-20 lead.
But then the red-hot Sabers got a little bored with the deliberate pace of the game, so they used a full-court press to speed up the youthful Knights. The result was a 10-0 run to start the third quarter and Franklin never looked back in earning a 59-43 Southeast Conference decision.
"They really packed it in with that zone," said senior Franklin forward Nick Romanowski, who had 14 points. "The second half, we came out a little more inspired. We got the momentum and kept it. We got the game at the pace we wanted, picked up some easy baskets and then never looked back."
The win was the seventh in eight games for the Sabers, who improved to 6-3 in the Southeast and 12-4 overall while the game Knights dropped their fourth decision in the last five games, falling to 1-8 in league play and 4-11 overall.
"We talked about trying to maintain tempo," said Knight coach Mike Jossie. "We were able to dictate it in the first half, but then they got control of it in the second. They did a perfect job in rushing us into shots that were just a little quicker than we wanted."
Franklin got out to an early 10-2 lead but then the Knights packed in the zone and the Sabers could not find the range from the perimeter. It was tied at 10 at the quarter and the Knights were able to hang onto their one-point lead going into the half.
Oak Creek got nine points, all on 3-pointers, from guard Terrence Garner in the first half. Garner would finish with 14 and was the only Oak Creek player in double figures.
But things would change quickly in the third quarter, as when senior guard Matt Krueger hit a 3-pointer just 12 seconds in, the Sabers had the lead for good. Krueger would also finish with 14 points.
Romanowski followed that effort with an old-fashioned 3-point play and after a Knight turnover, Macon Plewa converted a nifty lob. At the 6:01 mark of the third, junior guard Brett Ksobiech made a nice backcut for an easy lay-in, making it 30-21.
Ksobiech would finish with a game-high 17 points.
"We challenged the guys to play up-tempo and go full-court," said Saber coach Tim Hogan, "because in the first half they were successful at slowing it down. They are very disciplined. Mike (Jossie) did a great job in getting his kids to frustrate the heck out of us."
"But we rallied well in the second half. We used our defense to get some easy offense."
The Knights didn't fold after that initial burst from the Sabers as five different players scored in a 9-2 run to cut the deficit to 32-29 with 4:04 left in the third. A 3-point play by Garner highlighted the effort.
Oak Creek falls behind
But that would be as close as Oak Creek would get as the Sabers then went on an 8-0 run as Krueger got both a 3-pointer and a lay-up. In that time, Oak Creek had three good looks at 3-pointers all rim out or just come up a little short.
The margin would eventually be 42-32 at the end of three quarters and after Oak Creek's Casey Magyar (seven points) scored off a pretty curl to make it 42-34 early in the fourth, the Sabers ripped off the next nine points to end any drama. Guard Trevor Theissen hit his only three of the night to highlight the run.
Theissen would finish with seven of the Sabers' 18 team assists on the night.
"That's a good team we played tonight," said Jossie. "You can tell they're a veteran squad and that we're young (Oak Creek has just two seniors on its roster). We can play well and hang with teams for one, two, maybe even three quarters, but we haven't quite been able to put together a full game yet."
"But the kids aren't quitting and we'll find a way to get there yet."
Nearing the goal
Hogan knows that his team is getting closer to their goal.
"We know every game in the Southeast is going to be tough," he said, noting that the team's snowed out showdown with first place Racine Case has been rescheduled for Feb. 25. "So, we'll just worry about ourselves for the time being and maybe we'll find some nice surprises in the box scores in the morning (laughs)."
Franklin took on South Milwaukee on Tuesday and then will visit Kenosha Tremper on Friday at 7:15 p.m. The Sabers first place showdown against Racine Case that was snowed out Feb. 1 has been rescheduled for Feb. 25 at home. Oak Creek is in the midst of a hectic week, as it took on Westosha Central on Tuesday, played their make-up game with Kenosha Bradford on Wednesday and will be at home Friday against Racine Horlick.
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