Host Oak Creek shook off a sluggish start to down its Southeast Conference counterpart Racine Case for the third time this season, defeating the visiting Eagles in a WIAA Division 1 girls basketball regional final on Saturday night, 57-20.
The game was competitive early as Racine Case (7-16) took care of the basketball and found some success attacking the basket, battling Oak Creek to a 10-10 tie after the first quarter.
The Knights would respond with a vengeance, however, as senior forward Tamya Sims completed a 4-point possession for Oak Creek that fueled a 10-0 run to help the Knights seize control. Sims was fouled on a converted layup, and after missing the free throw, converted on the rebound to get the Knights going.
"I don't have an answer to why we are starting so slowly, but we could feel the defensive intensity level pick up in the second quarter," said Oak Creek head coach Steve Hluchnik. "Tamya put us on her shoulders, and then we continued to play pretty well into the second half."
Pretty well would be an understatement. The 10-0 spurt would mushroom into a 31-3 Oak Creek run through the midway point of the third quarter as Racine Case struggled to get into its offense against the Knights' smothering defense. Sims finished with a game-high 17 points for Oak Creek, including 13 in the first half. Senior guard Katie Finn added eight, and senior forward Steph Kostowicz chipped in seven for the Knights.
"Our offense moved a lot better in the first quarter," said Racine Case head coach Wally Booker. "We wanted to slow it down and work it inside for some easy shots, but they are a great team. We didn't hold on to the ball as well after that."
Entry passes that were finding their mark early were getting knocked away by the Knights' defense during the run, leading to easy conversions that helped the Oak Creek lead balloon to 41-13.
Freshman guard Wynter Townsend hit a deep three-pointer with 3:15 remaining in the third quarter to end the dominant run, but Racine Case would continue to sputter offensively. Fellow freshman guard Kiara Riser led the Eagles with seven points, while sophomore forward Azaria Floyd added five for Case.
While pleased with the victory, Hluchnik knows that his team will need to avoid the type of turnover-prone lulls that it endured over the weekend if it wants to continue on the road to state.
"Both nights (Friday and Saturday) we turned the ball over in the first quarter, and it's something we are going to have to find an answer to before Thursday," said Hluchnik. "We can't let that happen again."
Oak Creek will play Franklin (19-5), another Southeast Conference rival, in a sectional semifinal game at 7 p.m. Thursday at Racine Case.
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