Oak Creek girls take leadership role in Southeast with win over Franklin
Knights 5-1 overall, 3-0 in league play
Franklin girls basketball coach Tony Kathrens had two defenses - one a zone, another a man - set up to battle Oak Creek's mighty 6-2 post players Stephanie Kostowicz and Tamya Sims on Dec. 11 in the local rivals' showdown.
What he did not have is a defense for junior guard Katie Finn's outside shooting, as Finn drained three first-quarter three-pointers, as the Knights took an 11-0 lead and then never looked back in gaining a critical leg up in the Southeast Conference with a 52-38 decision.
"I think if you look at the box we held both of them (Kostowicz and Sims) to well below their averages," Kathrens said. "Their bigs just did not hurt as much as we thought they might, but give credit to Finn. She hit her threes."
Finn, who finished with 18 points, noted that she has put in extra practice time on her three-point shooting.
"The shot felt good all night," she said. "I work hard on that every day after practice. It's been my thing since I've been little."
With the victory, the Knights improved to 3-0 in the Southeast and 5-1 overall while Franklin fell to 2-1 and 3-2, respectively.
Oak Creek took on league foe Kenosha Bradford on Tuesday and is now off until the Sheboygan South Tournament Dec. 27 and 28. Franklin played Kenosha Indian Trail on Tuesday and then will host the annual Rathke Memorial Tournament Dec. 27 to 29.
Oak Creek coach Steve Hluchnik, whose team has not lost since an opening game defeat to Pius XI, was pleased with Finn and the team's effort.
"We've had some games where we couldn't hit the broadside of a barn with our threes," he said, "but we got some to drop tonight and that took them out of their zone defense. We also didn't let (guard Jenny) Eickhorst get a good look at any threes. We knew (Cassidy) Mihalko would get some points, but we didn't want Eickhorst to hurt us."
Eickhorst, who hit six three-pointers in a recent Franklin win, had only four points, all on free throws, all in the second half, while Mihalko finished with 14.
It was actually point guard Morgan Kokta who hit the first three-pointer of the night for Oak Creek just 22 seconds into the game, but it was Finn who stretched the lead to 9-0 with two more three-pointers in short order. When Kokta hit a baseline jumper with 3:18 left in the first it was 11-0 and for all intensive purposes the game was over.
And though Franklin's defensive strategy greatly limited Kostowicz (three points) and Sims' (no points) offensive efforts in the first half, the pair used their length to cut off the Sabers' trademark slashing, fast-paced attack.
Mihalko got the first bucket for Franklin on an offensive rebound at the 1:54 mark of the first quarter, but frequently the Sabers were stuck on the perimeter, not being able to find a way inside.
"Having those two big girls is a big help," Finn said. "They're just so long."
And Kostowicz, who finished with nine points, returned the favor.
"It's lucky that we have such good shooters," said Kostowicz. "They get their outside looks and that allows to get more inside looks."
Kathrens said the absence of 5-11 junior forward Montana Mack this night really hurt. Mack, who is lost for the season to an injury, is by-far-and-away the Sabers' best post player, he said.
"We really missed her presence," he said. "She would have made a difference. Their two bigs stopped everything we wanted to do inside. We just couldn't get anything going."
Despite that, the Sabers continued battling.
A three-pointer from freshman forward Carly Graverson cut the margin to 19-12 with 3:07 left in the second quarter, but those would be the last points Franklin would score in the half, as Oak Creek's Lindsey Kalski scored on a steal and Kostowicz finally got on the board with a three-point play with 1:20 remaining to make it 24-12 at the break.
Two free throws by Franklin's Nala Mudd cut the margin to 29-21 midway through the third quarter, but with Kostowicz and Sims getting more looks in the second half, that was as close as the Sabers would get.
The margin would reach 22 points in the fourth quarter.
Kokta added 10 points for Oak Creek.
Oak Creek, which lost in the WIAA sectional finals last season, has big plans for the season and intends to use this game as a launching point.
"We've not been in this spot (in the lead in the Southeast) for awhile," Hluchnik said. "With this game we're the front-runner. It's a nice position to be in for a change.
Kostowicz said the Knights learned a lot from losing to Pius in Game 1.
"We came into that game a little overconfident and we didn't do the things we needed to do (to win)," Kostowicz said. "I think we've been working a little harder since then because of that. We can do some good things and they can happen. We'll just have to see how it all shakes out."
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