The drama that attended last year's wild rally by Franklin and upset over Oak Creek in a WIAA Division 1 girls sectional semifinal was not dwelled upon by the Knights in practice this week as the two teams prepared for a rematch on the same playoff level tonight in Racine Case.
"We were motivated of course," said Oak Creek Steve Hluchnik, "but it was not our main focus."
But you would have had a hard time convincing anyone who attended tonight's game of that fact. The Knights (23-2 overall) held the Sabers (19-6) scoreless for the final six minutes of the first half, built a 24-11 lead at the break and then cruised to a 53-28 triumph.
"This was not about payback," said Hluchnik. "This was about taking care of business."
And boy did the Southeast Conference champions do just that, as they advanced to a WIAA sectional final at 2 p.m. Saturday at West Allis Central against Brookfield Central (21-4). The Lancers rallied for a 45-43 victory over DSHA tonight to advance. The Knights did beat Central 40-35 in the last regular season game on Feb. 25.
A state tournament berth will be on the line in Saturday's game.
"It's nice to look back and see what we've accomplished," said senior post Steph Kostowicz, "and it is exciting to beat Franklin again, but we're not done yet."
Franhklin coach Tony Kathrens, whose team lost for the third time to Oak Creek this winter, knew that his Sabers were overmatched tonight.
"They dominated the game and took advantage of every opportunity they had both on the offensive and defense ends of the floor," he said. "They have such great length. It makes it extremely difficult to play them."
That indeed was the situation, as Oak Creek's 6-2 twin towers of Tamya Sims (18 points, eight rebounds, two blocked shots and four steals) and Kostowicz (14 points, nine rebounds and three blocks) took control early and never let the Sabers have a chance.
Especially on the defensive end.
"Our main goal was to not bail them out (with fouls) because we have been sending teams to the foul line too much," said Sims. "We were aggressive with our defense because we knew that if someone got past, there was always help at the basket."
Franklin found that out the hard way.
Oak Creek never trailed, and the score was tied only once. The Knights would always lead after Katie Finn hit a 3-pointer with 3:42 left in the first quarter to make the score 8-5.
It was 12-7 at the quarter and Franklin was still in it at 14-11 after the Sabers' Morgan McCuen hit a nice give-and-go lay-up with six minutes left in the half.
But that was about the last easy basket of the night for the Sabers, as the Knights used their height and stout defensive principles to hold Franklin without a point the rest of the half, outscoring the Sabers 10-0 right into the break to build that 24-11 advantage.
Hannah Settingsgaard hit a 3-pointer and had five points in that run, while Sims had four points.
"We talked about stopping their 3-point shooting," said Hluchnik, "because they're such phenomenal shooters from out there and we held them to just two of them tonight. We knew that they'd also try to drive and get to the line."
But almost everytime they did that, especially in the second half, they were met with rejection.
The second half became about offensive efficiency for the Knights as they went both inside and outside with great proficiency. When Katie Settingsgaard hit a 3-pointer with 2:06 left in the third, it was 39-19 and for all effective purposes the game was over.
"We had to play them man-to-man because they've got such great outside shooting," said Kathrens. "They were just so efficient offensively."
Meanwhile, Oak Creek continued to frustrate the Sabers defensively in the fourth quarter, holding them without a field goal in that time as the lead never fell below 19.
Forward Carly Graverson, one of Franklin's tallest player on the floor at 5-10, led the Sabers with 11 before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Oak Creek's Hannah Settingsgaard helped the twin towers inside with 11 points, four rebounds and two steals.
"We got comfortable at the half, but not too comfortable," said Hluchnik. "We were very disciplined on offense in the second half. We didn't rush things and we did a phenomenal job of getting the ball inside to the horses (Sims and Kostowicz)."
Who along with their teammates are just a game away from their long-sought goal of state.
"We're feeling good but we have to keep working hard," said Sims.
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