It was a bittersweet holiday tournament win for the Oak Creek girls basketball team last week in Ashwaubenon, as the Knights turned in impressive victories over Divine Savior Holy Angels and the host Jaguars to run their current winning streak up to five.
It was sad because it marked the last time senior guard Tessa Leonardi would don her number 13 Oak Creek uniform and the team was making sure that the time was special.
About 150 Oak Creek fans wore t-shirts honoring her at the tournament and coach Steve Hluchnik started her in both games, though it was difficult for her to go for long because of the kidney disease that has left one of her critical organs shut down and the other working at about 19 percent.
Though her hoops career is over, another more hopeful chapter to her life is beginning, according to Hluchnik.
On the Sunday following the 42-28 championship win over DSHA, Leonardi and her family made a trip to Minnesota for complicated and delicate kidney transplant surgery that was done on Wednesday.
Hluchnik said it was all part of a long search for a compatible donor that ended happily this past summer.
"It's been a pretty emotional time for her," said Hluchnik. "We just wanted to do right by her."
The team, which will keep close tabs on Leonardi's condition following the surgery, did just that last week at Ashwaubenon.
In that 42-26 championship game win over the Dashers, the Knights (5-3 overall) imposed their will early, taking an 11-5 first quarter lead and outscoring DSHA in every period. The Dashers never scored more than eight points in any quarter.
It was 19-12 at the break and 30-18 at the end of three quarters.
"This was really a complete game for us," said Hluchnik. "We didn't play well in the first half against Brookfield Central or in the second quarter against Ashwaubenon , but this was four full quarters.
"We stayed pretty balanced and that made us tough to beat."
Defensively, the Knights were stifling as they used their 1-3-1 halfcourt trap effectively. With 6-2 senior Ashley Luke or 6-0 freshman Tamya Sims out top of the press, the Dashers found it near impossible to get into their offense consistently.
"Both (Luke and Sims) are super long and they really create problems," said Hluchnik.
Guard Cydney Weisflog led the way for the Knights with 14, Luke had 11 and Abby Styczynski tallied eight.
The first half was up and down for the Knights against Ashwaubenon in their 48-31 triumph. Oak Creek went up 13-4, but was outscored 11-2 in the second quarter.
But then the Knights mauled the Jaguars in the second half, outscoring them 21-8 in the third quarter to take control for good.
"We went ice cold against their 2-3 (zone) in the second quarter, but we made a couple minor adjustments at the half like making sure we got at least a couple of post touches each possession and then we just ate up that zone," said Hluchnik.
Seven different Knights scored, including Luke with 15, Weisflog and Morgan Kokta with eight apiece and Rebecca Running with seven.
Both Weisflog and Luke made the all-tournament team.
"We were able to play our type of game," said Hluchnik. "We're just playing very well defensively right now.
"And we're playing for a reason."
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Franklin girls third, Oak Creek fourth at Mukwonago track meet
- Oak Creek boys second, Franklin fifth at Mukwonago track meet
- Sports Shorts: April 10
- Oak Creek's Sims, Kostowicz still basking in glow of state title
- Steve Hluchnik adapted to lead Oak Creek girls basketball team to state title
- Happiness on parade, Oak Creek honors its state champions
- Sports Shorts: April 3
- Whitnall bounced back after slow start
- Luck, skill and heart helped Knights rally past Kimberly in overtime
- Fairytale comes true for Oak Creek girls basketball team