Confident Franklin finds stride late, makes it to sectional finals
Saber girls have first 20-plus win season since 1998
The team was undersized but had the heart of a giant and that is what drove the Franklin girls basketball team to a highly successful 21-5 season this winter.
What drove the Sabers to a WIAA sectional finals season, where their final loss was to eventual state D1 champion Milwaukee Riverside, were two players on opposite ends of the continuum of Franklin greats dating back to the late-1990s.
'A stabilizing force'
Senior guard Cassidy Mihalko ended her career with first-team All-WBCA Division I all-state status after finishing second in all-time scoring at the school with 1,287 points, while freshman forward Carly Graverson made an enormous impact all through the season and had a spectacular game in the upset of Southeast rival Oak Creek in the recently held WIAA sectional semifinal.
"There's not enough you can say about Cassidy," coach Tony Kathrens said. "She continues to re-define what is the totality of a basketball player. I swear she can score from inside the locker room - she's just that good of a shooter and she was such a stabilizing force this year."
"We were only really out of two games this year and that was largely because of her (level of play and maturity)," Kathrens added. "And like I said, Carly is the next big thing with us. She was the best kept secret around the conference for most of the season. She will be such an outstanding basketball player."
Mihalko was the designated star this year while Graverson got her chance when junior post Montana Mack was lost for the season with a knee injury before the campaign started.
The pair got a tremendous amount of help from senior guards Katie Nord and Jenny Eickhorst and junior forward Morgan McCuen, who also had a big finish in the last Oak Creek game.
Still, going into the season, Kathrens was only moderately optimistic.
"We were thinking we were going to be good, but our three seniors had very good years and the reason we were able to have a great finish is because we came together late," Kathrens said. "This is the first time we've had 20 wins since about 1998. I was thinking about 16-6 at best, but we developed confidence over time."
Kathrens said at Franklin's regional win over Racine Park, the team had a lot of confidence.
"We knew we had a chance with just about anyone," he said. "And that was the key. After our second loss to Oak Creek during the regular season, that's what I talked about: confidence. That was the barrier we had to break through and we did."
Mihalko was a very confident player, setting a single scoring record with 509 (18.9 ppg.) on 62 percent shooting from the field. She also hit 40 percent of her 3-pointers (21 hits) and was 72 of 93 from the foul line (77 percent). She had team highs in rebounding 145 (5.4 per game), blocked shots (35), steals (96) and assists (80).
Eickhorst came on to earn second-team All-Southeast Conference honors with an 11.2 points-per-game mark with a team-high 50 made 3-pointers. She was also third on the team in assists with 63 and tied for second with Nord in steals with 55. Nord was third-team all-league with a 6 points-per-game mark and was second on the team in both assists, with 73, and 3-pointers (25).
Graverson, the future star, averaged 7 points a game and was second in rebounding with 134. She also had 48 steals. McCuen averaged 5.4 points per game, with 48 assists and 36 steals.
Eickhorst finished with a record 134 three-pointers for her career. She, Mihalko and Nord were all four-year letterwinners who will be sorely missed.
Behind the likes of Graverson and McCuen, plus the projected return of Mack and players off a 20-2 junior varsity team and an 18-4 freshmen squad, the future is still bright for Franklin.
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