Franklin's Mihalko passes 1,000 points for her career as Sabers secure second in SEC
Forward one of just four to reach barrier
Franklin - She's part of the secret fraternity now, with the rings, hidden handshakes and oaths of loyalty and friendship now belonging only to her and a select few others.
Okay, so maybe Franklin senior forward Cassidy Mihalko didn't get all that, but Jan. 8, on a putback jumper from near the basket during a' 59-31 victory over Kenosha Tremper, she did pass the coveted 1,000-point mark for her career.
"It was awesome," said her coach Tony Kathrens. "It was her classic teardrop jumper."
And then came the swag.
"We gave her the game ball (Jan. 9)," added Kathrens, "and the next day (Jan. 10), the t-shirts arrived. See, she spoiled my surprise a little (laughs). I was anticipating having her not do this for a few more games, so I didn't order the t-shirts right away. But then she put up games of 37, 31 and 27 (points) and now here we are. We got those t-shirts on Thursday and we wore them as warm-ups during Friday's game (before the 58-50 win over Racine Case)."
How cool are the t-shirts by the way?
"They're pretty funny," said the 5-11 forward headed to California Baptist. "They're black and they say 'Cassidy hits 1,000 points' and then there's a picture of Gumby (the cartoon figure from the 1960s) spinning a basketball on his finger."
"Gumby" is Mihalko's nickname for her long, long arms and impossible bending and jumping ability.
Making school history
Heading into this week, Mihalko's 1,023 points is preceded in school history only by the late Christine Rathke (1,515), Laura Barczak (1,150) and Debbie Brust (1,071).
Pretty impressive company in her eyes.
"Only a few others have done it," she said, "and that feels really good. Ultimately, of course, I can't do it without the team. It just can't happen any other way. But this is really nice. When I started out here, it (1,000 points) was one of my goals. To do that I had to be consistent, which is something I try to pride myself on."
She said everybody on the bench knew when it happened, as they all jumped up when she hit the putback.
Her future coach at California Baptist was also aware, texting a note of congratulations to her.
Mihalko's secret weapon
Kathrens also pointed to Mihalko's versatility as a major reason why she was able to achieve this milestone, taking note of her secret weapon: the otherwise seldom-used mid-range jumper, the shot that got her to the 1,000-point mark.
"It wasn't anything I was trying to do special," Mihalko said. "It was just something I worked on in the last few years when I realized how beneficial and useful it was. Because there isn't always going to be a clear lane to the basket and the three-pointers aren't always going to drop. It's just something good to have."
The returning NOW All-Suburban selection Mihalko is trying not to make too big a deal of this achievement. A series of important games awaits, including a Jan. 25 date at home against archrival and Southeast Conference leader Oak Creek (7-0, 11-1) and she wants to keep the focus on the team. The team (6-1, 10-2 overall) will also be at Kenosha Bradford on Tuesday.
"We're really starting to come together, especially since we won the Rathke (tourney just after Christmas)," she said. "I hope it (that level of play) sticks with us the rest of the year."
Mihalko was right to focus on the team, especially in the win over the defending league champion Case team on the road last Friday. Point guard Katie Nord tried to go, but was eventually knocked down by a case of the flu. Meanwhile, Mihalko herself fouled out with about four minutes to go and the Sabers nursing a small lead against the tenacious Eagles.
"My stomach didn't start feeling better until after the game," joked Kathrens of the fix that Franklin was in.
Jenny Eickhorst slid over to handle the point position and Nala Mudd also helped fill in some of the gaps in the guard line.
Franklin was down 9-0 in that game before getting things going. The Eagles still held a 20-15 advantage by the end of the first period. Then in the second quarter, the Sabers switched from a 1-3-1 zone to a man defense and were able to surge ahead 29-24 at the half.
The lead got up to 10 in the second half, but case held in there and then late in the game, Brette Logic hit a three-pointer for the Eagles to close the gap to three points. But Franklin was able to make just enough free throws down the stretch (16 of 28 overall) to hold off the Eagles.
Despite fouling out, Mihalko still finished with 19 points ("That didn't feel very good," she said of sitting on the bench in the final minutes) while Eickhorst had 17 and Morgan McCuen nine.
Another person who filled in big was freshman forward Carly Graverson, who had 12 defensive rebounds.
"She's just a warrior," Kathrens said. "This was good for us. It showed that we could grind out big wins when we're short-handed."
Things went a lot easier against Tremper, as the score was 31-17 at the half.
Mihalko, who got her big record-setting basket in the second half, finished with 27 points, while Eickhorst led eight other scorers with eight points.
And now with milestone in hand, the team race now awaits Mihalko and the Sabers.
"We're at the halfway point and I think we now have it down pat," she said. "We know the system. Now it's just a matter of executing and being more consistent."
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