In a game that had been highly defensive throughout the first half, the Oak Creek girls basketball team stormed away with a 42-28 victory over the visiting Rockets from South Milwaukee in Saturday's regional final.
Abby Styczynski’s three-point shooting helped to ignite the Knights in the fourth quarter. While driving to the basket, she scored on a layup and drew a foul. She sunk the subsequent free throw for her second three-point play of the night. After the Rockets failed to score on their next possession, she nailed a three-point basket to put her team up, 30-24.
“I just play to win,” she said. “You have to just keep shooting. I’ve been off for the past couple of games and they finally just started going in.”
The Rockets didn’t go away, however, quickly scoring a three-pointer of their own when senior guard Mal Wesley received a pass just inside the three-point arc and took a step back before firing a shot that pulled the score back to 32-27.
With precious little time remaining, the Rockets sent the Knights to the free-throw line numerous times in an effort to regain possession and create some momentum, but the Knights were able to keep the Rockets off the scoreboard and finished enough of their free-throws to put the game beyond doubt.
“We got down and we had to take some more chances with our trapping,” said Rockets coach Tracy Stolte. “They started getting the momentum and we couldn’t answer. Once they hit those threes I thought we went away from our game. To their kudos they really did a nice job tonight.”
“We thought that if we could make it a fourth quarter game that we could wear them down,” added Oak Creek coach Steve Hluchnik.
The Knights were not clinical in their free throw shooting, making just 12 of their 22 attempts, but their three-point shooting more than made up for it. The Knights had scored last second three-point baskets to finish both the first and second quarters, big baskets in a low-scoring first half. The Knights led at halftime, 12-9.
“I think they sometimes got a little excited and tried to do too much in the first half and then we settled down in the second half," Hluchnik said.
Stolte agreed. “I think in a game like this where there is so much emotion, their intensity level is so much higher, and that can lead to players trying to force things on both sides, and at the same time, they’re more intense on defense.”
Both teams’ offenses came to life in the third quarter, and the game remained close with five lead changes. Oak Creek’s Samantha Erdman hit her only three of the night before South Milwaukee’s Ellie Pusheck scored a two-point field goal to keep the Rockets within two and end the quarter at 24-22.
Despite some early scoring in the fourth quarter, the Knights got rolling and the Rockets couldn’t keep up.
“I think our team chemistry really kicked in right there,” said Styczynski, who finished with a game high 14 points along with her teammate Morgan Kokta, while Mallory Wesley and Emily Pusheck both had 9 for the Rockets.