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Mihalko makes mark as second-leading scorer in Franklin history

Athlete earns second All-Suburban nod

April 2, 2013

NCAA Division II-level California Baptist University had a couple of things going for it when two-time NOW All-Suburban basketball selection Cassidy Mihalko of Franklin made it her choice for college earlier this school year.

The important thing was familiarity with the system.

"I felt very comfortable on campus and their style of play (up-tempo and attacking) was very similar to what I played at Franklin and in AAU ball," she said. "It's an easy transition."

And then there was the side benefit.

"I always wanted to go somewhere warm," she said. "It's a 30-minute drive to the beach (and the Pacific Ocean). It's not on top of the beach, but it's close enough (laughs)."

New opportunities

But on the serious side, Mihalko, who finished her career the second-leading scorer in Sabers' history with 1,287 points as well as a WBCA Division 1 first-team all-state nod, will get a chance to make her mark with the Riverside, California-based Lancers.

They finished with a 25-6 record (second-best in school history) and a Pac West Conference title, but nine of the 11 players on the roster are seniors.

So Mihalko will be surrounded by all new players, just like she was four years ago when she started high school. It'll be an opportunity.

"I'm going to work hard on getting stronger," she said. "I'm going to work more on my shot, because I really want to play at this level."

She did just that at Franklin, where she led the youthful Sabers (with just three seniors on the roster) to an excellent 20-7 mark this year and an upset of Southeast Conference champion Oak Creek in the WIAA sectional semifinals. The Sabers' season ended two days later with a sectional final loss to eventual state champion Milwaukee Riverside.

"We did almost everything that we wanted to do," Mihalko said. "Most of the season we spent time playing top-ranked teams … We took pride in being the underdog and trying to prove everyone wrong. We accomplished a lot of things."

A pure player

Mihalko was the top-talent on a senior-based guard line that included her best friends Jenny Eickhorst and Katie Nord. With her long, "Gumby"-like arms (it's her long-standing nickname) she could create any shot that she wanted - she was particularly adept at the almost lost art-form of the mid-range jumper) - and could snag almost any pass or any shot out of the air on the defensive end.

"I can't say enough about the totality of her game as a basketball player," coach Tony Kathrens said. "She can score from inside the locker room as far as I can tell. She's a stabilizing force on the court. She has great defensive ability, can block shots and is a remarkably unselfish player.

"Just a pure basketball player."

Mihalko developed her mid-range shot a few years ago, playing AAU ball against the likes of Milwaukee Riverside's 6-5 center Breanna Lewis.

"I couldn't drive to the hoop on her so I had to step back and work on another alternative," Mihalko said.

Elite of the Elite

Mihalko's adaptability and resilience put her among the elite of Franklin's elite, trailing only the Saber standard-bearer, the late Christine Rathke.

"It's definitely an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as her," Mihalko said of Rathke. "She was almost untouchable when I was a kid. It really is just an honor to be that close. I'm just glad I made my mark."

And she's happy to have done it with her friends Eickhorst and Nord, whom she's been playing with since she can't remember when.

"We wanted to set records as individuals and as a team," she said, "and we got a lot of them."

What Mihalko takes particular joy in is knowing that the future of the Franklin program is sound. This season she got to mentor the next potential "big thing" in Sabers' hoops, freshman forward Carly Graverson.

"She and I worked together well on the high-low," Mihalko said. "She's a smart player and a good passer, especially for being a freshman. She just brings a lot of energy to the floor."

Like she said earlier, Mihalko will now spend time working on her shot, and getting in shape for the college game.

"I can't wait for my chance," she said.

The Mihalko File

Saber earns 2nd All-Suburban spot

SEASON NOTES: She averaged 18.9 ppg., while scoring a Franklin single-season record 509 points. She shot 62 percent from the field for the season (187-301) while hitting 40 percent of her threes (21 of 53) and 77 percent of her free throws (72-93). She led the team in rebounds with 145 (5.4 per game) as well as steals with 96 (3.6 per game), assists (80) and blocked shots (36).

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