For Oak Creek coach Steve Hluchnik, 1-0 sounds a whole lot better than 1-7.
After his Knights lost seven straight games to Racine Case, the Knights finally got one, and it could not have come at a better time as Oak Creek edged the Eagles 41-39 in overtime in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal Thursday night. The Knights face Milwaukee King on Saturday night in the sectional final at Whitefish Bay.
“The eighth’s time the charm,” said Hluchnik. “You know, maybe it was the seven times in a row and maybe they took us lightly, but all I know is we had our best three days of practice in a row this week.”
The Knights (19-6) held a comfortable six-point lead at 35-29 with 2 minutes and 15 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. A free throw by Adella Randle El followed by a 3-pointer from Jameeka Bouie on back-to-back possessions gave new life to Case. The Eagles tied the game with a chance to take the lead when Asia Mosley forced a turnover in the backcourt and made a layup. She missed the free-throw attempt with 1:23 remaining, leaving the score tied.
“That fourth quarter was chaotic,” said Knights guard Morgan Kokta. “We tried to make them earn everything.”
Added Hluchnik: “We did a good job against their press until that last minute when they scored five points in two seconds. Give our kids credit, they could have quit right there and thrown in the towel.”
Bouie had a wide open look at a 3-pointer as time expired but was just a hair long on the shot. The Knights missed two free throws on the previous possession, allowing the game to remain tied.
“At the end of the day I don’t think we made any free throws tonight,” said Hluchnik jokingly.
In fact, when the game was on the line, the Knights made the free throws they needed. Tied at 39-39 with less than 30 seconds to play in overtime, Oak Creek sophomore Stephanie Kostowicz drilled both right next to a rambunctious Case student section. After an empty possession for Case, Kokta made one of two free throws with 2.6 remaining, leaving the door open a crack.
Case senior JaToya Woods (16 points) missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and the Knights celebrated while the Eagles fell to the floor in disbelief.
“We tried to stay focused every possession the whole game,” said Knights sophomore Tayma Sims. “We knew we had to play well against their press, and we did just a good enough job.”
The Knights came out with a punch from the opening tip, as they quickly led 9-0 halfway through the first quarter. Case, who has been the state’s top ranked team for much of the season, never held a lead. Oak Creek did not have a player score in double figures, but eight different players did score, led by Sims and Abby Styczynski (9 points each).
“We really learned a lot about them, playing them so many times these past two years,” said Knights guard Morgan Kota.