Top-ranked Oak Creek girls basketball team has high goals this season
Experienced Knights start campaign off well with two wins over King, Middleton
Last year was last year, this year is this year.
And the experienced, talented and state's top-ranked Oak Creek girls basketball team is going to settle for nothing less but glory this season as the Knights came out of the talent-laden Brookfield Central Thanksgiving Shootout with two impressive wins last weekend over Rufus King and Middleton.
"Taking into consideration what happened at the end of last year (the devastating sectional loss to rival Franklin), things are going fairly well," said 6-2 senior forward Stephanie Kostowicz after last Saturday's 53-34 victory over Rufus King. "Everything was so close last year. It's our senior year and I think we all want that final hoorah."
Loosely translated, Kostowicz means a state championship.
Coach Steve Hluchnik is not going to get even close to thinking about something that grand yet, but he was largely pleased with the victories over the two state-ranked opponents.
Traditional state-power King came at the Knights with full-court intense pressure most of the game Saturday and for the most part, Oak Creek, with new point guard junior Jenna Santi at the helm, held up well.
"That was a pretty good game we played and I give a lot of credit to King," Hluchnik said. "These are the kinds of teams that usually give us trouble. We were out to test our guards and it was pretty good. We weren't too rattled."
No, because, the tall (three starters 6-0 or taller), athletic Knights can hold up to pressure by simply passing over it with the likes of 6-0 senior Katie Finn, the 6-2 Kostowicz and her 6-2 running mate, Bradley recruit Tamya Sims handling the ball.
The 5-4 Santi won a battle for the point guard position over the summer. She has big shoes to fill, as veteran point Morgan Kokta graduated last year from the 23-2 team.
In fact, it was Kokta's injury in the fourth quarter of the sectional semifinal against Franklin last season that led to the devastating and surprising loss to the Sabers and that defeat has served as all the impetus in the world for the Knights this season.
In short, there is a sense of urgency out there.
"I like the way we've started," Hluchnik said. "A lot of good, some bad. We didn't get a chance to see teams we played this weekend much beforehand but something like that will help us in the long run.
"As far as the big picture for us, we know what's out there (a potential state title) and we'll look to take it head on and work even harder to get it."
Aside from the aforementioned players, the Knights have a wealth of talent elsewhere, too. Junior Hannah Settingsgaard (5-8) was also a letterwinner last year as was 5-8 senior guard Lindsay Kalski. Others with experience include 6-1 sophomore Nicky Widenski and 5-9 senior Martina Bilandzija.
"We also have four sophomores on the team and they'll all see time, too," Hluchnik said. "We want to go about 10 deep, but with the team we have, minutes may be hard to come by."
"The team we have" means Hluchnik has an enviable situation with the twin towers Sims and Kostowicz this season.
"Tamya is physically stronger than she's ever been and more aggressive, too," Hluchnik said. "She's a tough, smart fourth-year player. The only thing that'll slow her down this year is foul trouble."
"Steph is a three-year kid. Not only can she play underneath, but she can stretch the floor with the outside shot. She's also our biggest vocal leader."
She has committed to UW-Milwaukee.
Finn, Sims and Kostowicz are team co-captains this season and will open defense of their Southeast Conference title against Kenosha Indian Trail at 7:15 p.m. Friday at home.
Hluchnik is anxious to get into the meat of the season.
"I'm not going to lie," he said. "We have the talent. If we stay healthy, we can compete with anybody."
In the win over King last Saturday, it was 28-8 at the half and the lead reached 43-18 in the second as Sims led the way with 21 points while Finn had 11, Kostowicz seven and Settingsgaard six. The night before, the Knights overpowered a good Middleton team, 53-29, as both Sims and Kostowicz had 17 apiece.
"It went pretty well," said Sims in a manner of understatement. "We have high expectations as a team and we know we can be pretty good if we communicate well and run our plays."
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