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Oak Creek momentum rolls forward

March 2, 2013

There were no surprises in Oak Creek on Saturday night as the top-seeded Knights girls basketball team ousted visiting No. 4-seed Racine Case, 77-49, to advance to the WIAA Division 1 sectional.

It was the third – and despite the scoreboard, the most challenging – win over Racine Case (11-12) this season after two lopsided regular season contests. The Knights (23-1) will face another Southeast Conference opponent, No. 2-seeded Franklin (21-4), on Thursday night at Greenfield. The Knights also defeated the Sabers in both regular-season meetings.

“It didn’t feel like a 25-30 point win,” Oak Creek head coach Steve Hluchnik said, “They’re physical; if the refs don’t call it, they don’t call it. The referees don’t call much until the fourth quarter when it almost got out of hand, but we played through it.”

Oak Creek’s high-powered offense, which came in averaging 57 points per game, was at its best. Knights junior guard Katie Finn scorched the Eagles from the perimeter, draining four 3-pointers in the first half to help give her team a 45-33 lead at the break. Finn finished with 13 points.

The Eagles were nearly as good from outside as senior guard Mya Collum connected on five 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 19 points. But the difference was in the paint, where Oak Creek junior forwards Tamya Sims and Steph Kostowicz dominated. Kostowicz led with a game-high 27 points, while Sims wasn’t far behind with 22.  The Eagles simply lacked the size to contain Oak Creek’s powerful frontcourt.

“I think their biggest girl is 5-11, and we knew there was an advantage there,” Hluchnik said. “That’s been all year; Steph and Tamya work very well together. Whoever has the mismatch, we’re going inside to them, and we also have three kids who can shoot threes pretty well.”

Case not only lacked the size, but also the sheer numbers to keep up with the Knights.

“We’ve got about six players that we can really go to, and they just wore us down,” Racine Case head coach Willie Maryland said. “Once they get inside, there’s just nothing we can do. They’re not good; they’re great. I haven’t seen a lot of teams because of how the schedule is, but it’s hard for me to believe there’s someone out there better than they are. They might be the best team I’ve seen in the conference in the last four years, and there have been some pretty good ones. They have everything.”

In the second half, the inside game continued to take its toll on the Eagles as Sims and Kostowicz scored 14 of Oak Creek’s 15 third-quarter points. The Knights led 60-45 entering the fourth quarter.

Midway through the fourth with a 74-49 lead, Hluchnik sat his starters and looked ahead to Thursday.

“We’re glad we’re playing, but us and Franklin know each other very well, and we’re going to have to play our best game to knock them off a third time,” he said.

For the Eagles, freshman guard Kylaa Carter also reached double figures with 10 points. Maryland was quick to find the silver lining even while his team took the loss hard.

“When I took this job, people thought we’d be lucky if we won five games. We ended up 11-12. That’s a good season. I love my girls because no matter what the score is, they play hard until the end. There’s no reason to hang their heads.”

While Hluchnik was only focused on Franklin, Maryland didn’t hold back when asked about Oak Creek’s potential.

“I do think that’s the state champion,” he said. “It might not happen, but I really believe that. Their coach does a great job. As good as they are inside, they also have good guard play, and if you don’t have good guard play, you’re not going to win in the state tournament.”

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