Oak Creek girls knock off state runner-up King, improve to 13-1
Knights to visit Franklin on Friday
Oak Creek - On a team level, the girls basketball team had already proved much to itself this season, but the third-ranked in state Knights took that a step further last week, powering past formidable nonconference opponent Muskego and then returning to WIAA D1 state runner-up Milwaukee King to burnish their record to a finely honed 13-1.
On an individual level, the Knights also took steps up: Junior forward Tamya Sims more than made up for the abundant foul trouble in that 63-57 road win at King last Friday with a career game of 26 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots.
"That was clearly one of her very best games," Knights coach Steve Hluchnik said. "It was one of those nights where everything that could go wrong did and she helped lead us through."
The two victories lifted the Knights to 13-1 overall, as they have not lost since the first game against Pius XI. They ended the first half of league play at 7-0 in Southeast Conference play and began the second with likely their most challenging week of the last month of the regular season.
They took on third place Racine Park (5-2, 10-5) on Tuesday and then will visit second-place rival Franklin (6-1, 10-3) on Friday in a pair of games that can go a long ways toward all but clinching the Southeast title.
They routed Park, 64-37, the first time around and overpowered the Sabers, 52-38, in their first meeting.
They prepared for those upcoming games well.
Learning lessons while winning
The triumph over King was the second major victory for the Knights over a City Conference power this season as they had edged Riverside last month.
But it did not come easily. They used their size early to bolt out to a 15-point lead early in the second half, but that quickly dissipated as Oak Creek ran into serious foul trouble. First, point guard Morgan Kokta had to sit the last 5-1/2 minutes of the first half with three fouls and then later in the second half, center Steph Kostowicz had to sit a combined total of 8-1/2 minutes with four fouls.
"We actually finished the game with three girls playing with four fouls (Kokta, Kostowicz and Hannah Settingsgaard)," Hluchnik said. "The game was also very physical and they really let some things go."
Oak Creek's lead shriveled to 46-44 by the end of the third quarter and the Generals actually tied the score with about 3:30 to go, but then the Knights went on a 6-0 run late as Sims had four points in the outburst and Kokta hit a critical pull-up jumper.
Oak Creek was not great at the foul line at the end, but still hit enough free throws (12 of 21) to hold off King.
Sims was a big part of that as she was able to overpower the shorter Generals underneath. She hit six of 10 free throws.
The Knights needed her to do that, because the three-pointer was not their friend this evening: They hit only three of 17 tries from beyond the arc. Despite their foul trouble, both Kostowicz (13 points) and Kokta (10) reached double figures while Katie Finn and Settingsgaard had seven apiece.
"We didn't shoot well, we ran into foul trouble and we still won," said Hluchnik. "There's something to be said for learning lessons while winning, because it certainly beats learning lessons while you're losing."
Against the Warriors
In the 55-42 victory over their former Southeast rival Muskego on Jan. 15, the Knights didn't have such shooting problems early, as they hit five first-quarter three-pointers and raced out to a 23-6 lead.
"We did a good job of rotating the kids in early and everyone was really on rhythm that first quarter," Hluchnik said.
The Warriors, who came back with an impressive Classic 8 win over Arrowhead later in the week, could not overcome Oak Creek's early advantage as the lead never got below double digits after that.
Kostowicz and Sims both had 14 points apiece for the Knights while Settingsgaard and Kokta had 10 apiece.
"They're a quality program and a rival, so we like to keep them on the schedule," Hluchnik said of Muskego.
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