The big plays were there tonight for the Oak Creek girls basketball team as the Knights finally pulled out a close win over a major opponent, when they upset top-ranked in D2 state Pius XI Tuesday night.
Among the key plays were:
*Katie Finn's four 3-pointers and 14 total points, including a critical bomb at the start of the fourth quarter that put Oak Creek up 30-28.
"We've talked about no matter how many posts you have, people are going to shut them down from time-to-time so have to hit a shot from the outside," said coach Steve Hluchnik. "Katie just came up big for us tonight. Those shots were huge."
*Then there was the beautiful give and go pass that Finn hit post Stephanie Kostowicz with at the 1:54 mark. Kostowicz made the shot, was fouled and converted the free throw for a 37-35 lead. Oak Creek would never trail again.
"It was a beautiful play and an open shot. You just couldn't ask for anything more," said Kostowicz.
*And with 42 seconds left and Oak Creek nursing a 37-36 lead, Kostowicz was at the foul line for the front end of the bonus. The try bounced off the back iron, but teammate and fellow post Tamya Sims leaped high to snag the ball out of the air.
"In my head, I told myself that if it comes out I'm going to go get it," said Sims.
Then with just 28 seconds remaining, Kostowicz was back at the line, again with that same 37-36 lead. This time she didn't miss, knocking down both throws for a 39-36 advantage.
"I like to think that I'm a pretty good foul shooter," said Kostowicz. "I'd like to take a chance with me again at the foul line, but it is great to have a teammate (Sims) behind me when I'm clanging (chuckles)."
Pius, even with a time-out with seven seconds to go, could not get a good look at a tieing 3-pointer before the buzzer went off.
All told, it added up to an impressive victory for the third-ranked in state D1 Knights, who had dropped one-point decisions this season to the top-ranked team in state D1 polls Kimberly and to second-ranked in state D2 polls Pewaukee.
"We finally closed one out today," said Hluchnik. "We got to the foul line, made our free throws and were very composed down the stretch.
"...This was a big one. We needed to have one like this before the (WIAA) tourney."
His players echoed his sentiments.
"I think I can speak for all of us, it really feels good to pull out a close one," said Kostowicz, who finished with 12 points.
"This proves that we can finish games," said Sims. "The last couple of times we were in this situation, we let it slip away. Now that we got this one, the next time out, it'll be easier to finish it up."
And it was close almost all night. Oak Creek got out to a 12-4 first quarter lead, but then the intense Lady Popes (10-2 overall), forced turnover after tunrover and cut the margin to 17-15 at the half.
The second half was more of the same as there were two ties and the lead changed hands nine times. Oak Creek's largest lead in the session was 19-15 early in the third and Pius had a three-point midway through the third before a Finn trey tied it up.
Oak Creek had a slight advantage at the line as it hit eight of 10 tries as compared to the Lady Popes six of 12. Pius was led by Gabby Green with 11 points while Sims added nine for the Knights.
"They were just scrappier than heck and were in our faces all night," said Hluchnik. "I actually told the kids at halftime that it would be the first team to 40 that wins. We didn't get there but we were the closest. We were the closest (laughs)."
"...This was a big one. Anytime you beat Pius its really something. I don't think we've beaten them (while I've been here) and that includes a (WIAA) sectional game. It's nice to get them back for a change."