Oak Creek dominant in winning first state championship

March 22, 2014

Though customary at the sectional level in WIAA postseason basketball, girls basketball teams do not get an opportunity to cut down the nets after winning a state championship at the Resch Center in Green Bay.

Which is fine, since Oak Creek had already burned them up.

Oak Creek celebrated its first state title in girls basketball with a 73-52 victory over Superior on Saturday, shooting a blistering 67 percent for the game (25 of 37) and turning a close game midway through the first half into a no-doubter. Leading the charge was Stephanie Kostowicz, who hit on her first 8 shots and finished with 19 points and 7 rebounds.

“Superior is an unbelievable offensive team; they have two players who average over 20 a game and they average 77 points a game as a team,” Oak Creek coach Steve Hluchnik said. “Our goal was just to control both those kids as much as we could. We got off to a great start and they answered right back, but they didn’t seem to have an answer for our offense tonight. We were able to keep our pace and fortunate enough to get some stops throughout the game, and they couldn’t get many stops on us.”

The shooting performance amended the old record for shooting percentage in a state-tournament game and shattered the old mark for shooting in a title contest. Kettle Moraine, which shot .657 in a 1999 contest en route to the 1999 state championship, held the previous single-game mark. The Lasers shot .556 in the title game that year, the previous high water mark for a shooting percentage in a D1 title game. Oak Creek’s mark was the best in any title game, in any division, ever.

“We said at the beginning of the year, one of our goals to make it to state and win state, and we did it,” Kostowicz said. “I can’t be any happier with the results.”

Oak Creek jumped out to a 16-4 lead, though Superior came back to take a 19-18 lead early in the second quarter before the Knights responded right back.

Oak Creek’s lead was just 1 point at the 3:51 mark of the second quarter, but the UW-Milwaukee recruit Kostowicz hit back-to-back layups, then added another basket to cap a run of 10 straight points for her team, spotting the Knights a 30-25 lead. Finn added a jumper and two free throws, and Kostowicz closed with another basket just before the buzzer to finish the second quarter with 12 points and 16 for the half.

Kostowicz, who hit a layup just before the buzzer against Kimberly in the state semifinal one night earlier, forcing overtime in an eventual Knights victory, also beat the buzzer for a basket in the first quarter.

Oak Creek shot 14 of 23 in the first half (61 percent) even as Kostowicz and Sims picked up two fouls. Lindstrom also picked up two quick fouls but was still effective in the first half, finishing with 8 points and 7 rebounds.

Oak Creek held a 9-point lead at halftime and took off midway through the third period, starting when a Kostowicz triple gave the Knights a 45-31 lead.

“Once we get hot, we normally stay hot,” Kostowicz said. “It’s really nice to come out like that. It makes the game so much easier and makes it so much more fun to play.”

The Settingsgaards took it from there, with junior Hannah Settingsgaard converting a steal into a layup and sophomore Katie drilling 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to put her team up by 20.

Katie Settingsgaard added another 3-pointer to replenish the lead to 20 points. She finished with 9 points.

Katie Finn followed up a superb 16-point performance in the semifinal with 15 points, and Tamya Sims added 18 more before she begins her career at Bradley University. The Knights shot 9 of 15 from 3-point range (60 percent) and drilled 14 of 16 (88 percent) from the free-throw line for good measure.

“I can’t describe how I feel right now,” Sims said. “It’s just unbelievable . We have a great group of girls and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”

Superior standout Jessica Lindstrom, ticketed for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, closed her decorated career with 23 points and 17 rebounds.

“She’s so strong,” Kostowicz said. “She’s very hard to box out, especially when you’re trying to get in front of hrer in the post and the person in front of her shoots it, it’s impossible to get around her. She makes it so hard.”

Lindstrom’s teammate and fellow first-team All State choice Hailey Kontny added 16 points. Superior was playing in its first state-title contest in girls hoops and just the second state-championship game for any sports program in school history.

“It’s tough to lose a game like that,” Superior coach Phillip Roe said. “At the same time, my girls battled and played extremely hard. We had our chances and chipped into their lead and got the momentum at the beginning of the second quarter. Oak Creek hit some big shots. They hit a lot of 3-pointers, and hats off to them, they’re a very good team and at the same time, I’m very proud of my girls and my leaders that they are on and off the court. Jessica left behind a legacy in Superior and she’s going to create a new one in Green Bay. People saw that there’s something special there.”

Oak Creek made four previous trips to the state tourney, most recently in 2008. They won multiple games at state for just the second time in school history, matching the 2-1 performance in 1983. The team also appeared at state in 1982 and 1984.

“These two are a big part of it,” Hluchnik said, referring to Kostowicz and Sims. “We set pretty lofty goals early because we knew we had some talent, and we played a tough schedule. We had a couple bumps in the road and lost to some great programs, but I think we grew from that and learned from that as a team. We just have some great teammates that understand roles and accept roles on the team. That’s what carried us through in tough sectional and state tournament.”

The team’s two losses this year came by 1 point apiece to undefeated state qualifier Kimberly (which Oak Creek defeated Friday in the state semifinal) and Pewaukee, which spent a good portion of the year undefeated and ranked No. 1 in Division 2.

Jenna Santi finished the game with 7 assists.

“This team would like to be remembered as a stepping stone to a legacy in Oak Creek girls basketball,” Sims said. “We have a lot of talented players coming in to Oak Creek, and the sky’s the limit for them.”

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