Oak Creek girls basketball team finds leadership, has another strong season
Sound leaders, talented underclass lead way
Oak Creek - A few weeks ago after a sloppy, Senior Night performance against rival Muskego cost the Oak Creek girls basketball team a chance at second place in the Southeast Conference, Knights' coach Steve Hluchnik lit into his team and asked his players, 'Who exactly was going to take charge down the stretch?'
He got his answer in the WIAA tournament, as the Knights knocked off top-seeded and SEC champion Racine Case in the sectional semifinal, breaking a long losing streak to the Eagles and regaining their mojo in the process.
The fact that Oak Creek subsequently lost to eventual state runner-up Milwaukee King in a thrilling sectional final took nothing from what was otherwise another sound season for the 19-7 Oak Creek squad.
It was a team that beat eventual state champion De Pere in the season opener, and had defeated King in a non-conference game midway through the campaign.
"Somehow we managed to figure it out," said Hluchnik. "I was talking to Abby Styczynski (a starting guard) after a game and I asked what the difference was and she just said, and I'm not entirely sure what she meant, but it went like 'We just know how to win now.'"
It was the Knights' eighth straight trip to the sectional round.
Not bad for a team that lost its two leading scorers to graduation last season (including All-Suburban post Ashley Luke).
"We did find some kids who wanted to step up and become leaders," said Hluchnik, "and that took something, because we were so young in so many positions. There was one point in the second half of the King (sectional) game, where we had three sophomores, a junior and a freshman on the floor.
"It will just make us better down the road. These seniors were great kids, nice kids. They figured it out and gained a competitive edge. They really believed that they could compete with anyone and they really did.
"It was crazy that we beat both De Pere and King and that we finally got Case after what, about eight losses in a row to them? Yeah, we had great kids on this team. No attitudes, just a lot of effort and people who were really coachable."
The senior group included Styczynski, Maggie Wilke, Chandler Gilmeister and Rebecca Running.
In his letter to them on that Senior Night, Hluchnik was quite honest with them.
"Since their sophomore year on the varsity, these four have shown to be a special bunch, having gone from role players as sophomores to leaders as seniors. They've shown to be unselfish, always accepting their role on the team, and have put team before themselves," he wrote.
Future looks bright
The interesting thing for the Knights was that the statistical leaders were in that underclass Hluchnik mentioned, as sophomore forward Tamya Sims earned first-team all-SEC while junior guard Morgan Kokta (the hero of the De Pere win) and sophomore forward Steph Kostowicz were third-team selections.
Sims averaged 12 points and eight rebounds a game and was the top defender and athlete on the team.
The Oak Creek junior varsity lost only two games this year and the freshmen five.
"We do have a future," Hluchik said.
He was recently announced the head coach of the South Division 1 team in the WBCA All-Star game in June. He will bring along his current assistant Nick Roeglin as well as his old Greater Metro rival Dan Wandrey of Brookfield Central to help him out.
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