They look each other in the eye and down upon most opposition (literally) and see only the lofty heights they have achieved so far - and what still has to be done.
Such are the lives and playing futures of Oak Creek's NOW All-Suburban basketball team forwards, 6-2 juniors Tamya Sims and Stephanie Kostowicz, especially after the disappointing end to an otherwise spectacular 23-2 season for the Knights.
"I've had the hunger to go to state since my freshman year," Kostowicz said, "and now next year, it's all or nothing."
"Our captains gave us a speech at the banquet (held this past week)," Sims said. "They think we'll do really good. They said we can't let that loss (to Franklin in the sectional) discourage us. We're not going to."
The sectional semifinal defeat to the Sabers came right after point guard Morgan Kokta injured her wrist. Kokta will be the primary graduation loss for this powerful team, which spent most of the season ranked among the state's top three.
They will likely start next winter's campaign among the top three again behind the returning Sims and Kostowicz as well as a plethora of other returnees.
Sims and Kostowicz made an interesting pair this past winter, as they essentially occupied the same post position that would go to just one player on a given team. But the pair co-existed, complimented each other and out-and-out thrived throughout a 23-game winning streak.
Sims is the athletic, jump-out-of-the-gym defender who guarded everyone from guards to centers and who used her speed and jumping ability to create her own offense. So successful was she at these disciplines that she earned Southeast Conference Player of the Year and first-team WBCA Division I all-state honors.
Meanwhile, Kostowicz is the sturdy and strong battler on the block, a powerful rebounder who also has the trick up her sleeve of being able to step out and successfully hit the 3-pointer, adding depth and difficulty for the opponent when the Knights' high-powered offense was already difficult enough to deal with.
"We've been playing together since middle school and we just know each other's strengths and weaknesses so well," Sims said.
"It was almost a great season," Kostowicz said, an honorable mention all-state selection who was also a first-team All-Southeast choice. "We knew we were good before the season started. Everyone was friends off and on the court.
"Tamya and I play against each other everyday (in practice). Coach (Steve Hluchnik) does it all the time. …I love how Tamya can just elevate over everyone in the state. She's just awesome that way."
Hluchnik knows what a luxury he has in the pair.
"About 90 percent of the time she was the most athletic on player on the floor," Hluchnik said of Sims. "She was very effective in our 1-3-1 defense and could guard just about anyone on the floor."
Many high-level Midwestern NCAA D1 schools are after her as well as a veritable army of mid-majors.
Sims said she's just starting to think about what she would like to do for college.
"I'm open to just about anything at this point," she said. "I have a lot of choices and opportunities."
Hluchnik is almost as high in his opinion of Kostowicz.
"She can spread the defense with the three and while not quite the athlete that Sims is, she can guard anyone from two through five on the floor," he said.
Kostowicz too is just looking into her collegiate options. She's also part of the Oak Creek band and is taking part in that group's trip to Colorado this week.
Both have earned their coaches' trust in different areas.
Kostowicz likes the fact that the coaches will now let her shoot the 3-point shot, but only under certain conditions.
"If I'm open, squared up and have my feet set, then coach is all right with it," she said with a small laugh.
Sims' trust comes in the area of being able to defend anyone on the floor, one of the features that makes her most attractive to college recruiters.
"I'm usually on the most athletic opponent (on the perimeter), but I can also battle in the post too," she said.
Both are going to work hard in the off-season trying to make their dreams come true, with Sims playing with the Lakeside Lady Scholars' team that features 6-5 center Breanna Lewis of the D1 state champion Milwaukee Riverside.
"And I'm going to work on my defense and my ball-handling," Kostowicz said. "Also, when I get the ball (underneath), I want to be able to finish better."
And then there's always the question about what to do about next year.
"What made us great this year was that we were a team of many parts," Sims said. "If the posts weren't having a good game then the guards would pick us up and if the guards weren't having a good game, the posts would get it done.
"We'll try to do that again next season."
Sims and Kostowicz paced Oak Creek
SIMS' NUMBERS: She averaged 15 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, hitting 66 percent of her shots from the field (142-215) and 72 percent of her free throws (91-127). She had 48 steals, 44 blocks and 30 assists.
KOSTOWICZ'S NUMBERS: She averaged 14.6 ppg on 63.6 percent field goal shooting for the year while downing 74 percent of her free throws (64-87). She led the team in rebounding with a 6.3 per-game average with 36 assists, 40 steals and a team-high 45 blocks. She also hit 14 three-pointers on the season.
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