The Franklin girls basketball team lived up to its billing as a top 10 team in the Milwaukee area on Saturday afternoon against the visiting Panthers from Racine Park, moving on to Thursday's sectional semifinal with a convincing 84-48 win.
The second-seeded Sabers were too much for the third-seeded Panthers right from the start as Carly Graverson and Jenny Eickhorst scored a pair of 3-pointers to open the Sabers’ scoring, and Cassidy Mihalko scored five baskets in the first quarter en route to a 23-11 Franklin lead. The fast paced competition suited the Sabers well, as their prolific offense continued the pressure into the second quarter while the Panthers were forced to take shots that simply didn’t drop. Mihalko finished the first half with 15 points.
“It’s like when I broke the record for points scored in a game I had no 3-point shots at all and only had two free-throws, so I basically always score two-point field goals,” she said. “I just relax and try focus too hard on it.”
Park kept pace with the Sabers with greater success in the second half as both teams demonstrated a high paced offense and accurate 3-point shooting. Early in the third quarter, Racine Park’s Quadadra McMillian nailed a 3-pointer and was fouled, but couldn’t convert the free-throw for a four-point play. Franklin answered shortly thereafter with a three from Morgan McCuen. Franklin’s Taylor Schell added another three later in the quarter, followed immediately by a three from Park’s Janelle Scales. As if insistent upon getting the last word, Franklin’s Eickhorst followed with another triple.
“We wanted it that way,” Franklin coach Tony Kathrens said of the fast pace. “We knew that we had to get Briana McRae tired, and the way that we played them to do that is get up and down the court, which we do anyway, but I thought we did it well today, better than we’ve done it all year. They’re the only team that can get us above 60. They’re very athletic, they get right back with some layups, so it’s a high-risk, high-reward type of offense.”
The Sabers rounded off the fourth quarter with three consecutive two-pointers from freshman Sarah Neumann and 20 points total to come out with the 84-48 win. Mihalko finished with 33 points.
Next up is Oak Creek, and it will be the third time this season that Franklin will meet the Knights. After dropping the first two, Franklin hopes the third time is the charm.
“Oak Creek is the game we wanted; we’ve wanted it all year,” said Kathrens "We lost to them twice. This is the game that challenges us to be the very best we can be. Any confidence we didn’t have in the regular season, I think this team has now.”
“I feel pretty confident,” added Mihalko. “It’s hard to beat a team three times. The last time we lost in the playoffs, we beat that team both times in the regular season so I think we’ve got a pretty good feeling about the game.”
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