Franklin girls basketball coach Tony Kathrens wishes he could close out the season mentally thinking about the inspiring title the Sabers won in their own Rathke Tournament at the end of December or any of the other well-earned victories the team claimed in its Southeast Conference runner-up 17-7 season.
But he can't. He's got a lousy tape loop in his head of the season-ending 80-55 hammering the Sabers took in the WIAA regional final from Brookfield East three weeks ago.
'When we won the Rathke (which included a victory over D4 state runner-up Kenosha St. Joseph's), I wish the season never ended,' he said, 'but unfortunately, I'm going to be thinking about that last game (East) all summer. I think about the things we could have done better there, but in the end, the finger can't be pointed in any other direction but mine.
'We needed to make a much better showing and especially on TV (the game was broadcast regionally). That's on me.'
Kathrens said that he felt especially bad for the three longtime senior team leaders, forward Carly Graverson, guard Abby Schauer and forward Sarah Neumann, that the season ended the way it did.
'We had great, great individual talent this year, and they did a lot of great things for us this year, but what I didn't do is show them the value of team ball,' he said. 'You sometimes fall in love with individual talent (as a coach), and so sometimes you look past the fact that the extra pass is not being made. We thought we could get it done that way, and we didn't.
'We set up the offense that way and let them go ... that's on me.'
That concept led to some inconsistency as the season wore along.
And as has been the case for four years now, the Sabers ran into the brick wall of Oak Creek in the Southeast Conference, and two more frustrating losses to them ensured that the Sabers would be second for the fourth straight year.
'I've said all along that any success Oak Creek gets, they deserve,' Kathrens said. 'We've played them twice and three times a year recently, and what they've been able to do shows that they're an elite program.
'That we've been virtually the only team (in the conference) that can hang in there with them says something good about us.'
The season did reach its apex with the Rathke title as the Sabers beat state powers Milwaukee Rufus King, Germantown and St. Joseph's for the title. That was part of a season-best seven-game winning streak.
That streak ended with an upset loss to Racine Case in a Southeast Conference game. Two contests later, the Sabers played one of their best defensive games of the season against Oak Creek but could not solve the Knights' intricate defensive maneuvers and dropped a 47-39 decision.
The win effectively clinched the league title for the Knights.
Franklin did win six games in a row after that before the East defeat.
The Southeast all-conference team voting went as expected with Graverson earning first-team honors, while Schauer was placed on the second team and Neumann on the third team. Graverson was also honorable mention WSN all-state.
Graverson finished the season averaging a team highs in scoring (15.8 ppg.), rebounding (7.3 rpg.) and assists (68). Schauer averaged 13.9 ppg. and led the team with 79 free throws made in 120 tries. She also led the team in steals (72) and was second in assists (58). Neumann tossed in 11.8 ppg., led the team in field-goal percentage (.502) and was second in rebounds (5.7 per game) with 47 steals and 18 blocks.
The only other senior on the roster was forward Eva Oklobdzija, who Kathrens praised for her strong work off the bench.
Junior Megan Lee led the team in blocked shots (22), while junior Madison Schell led the team in 3-pointers (39) and contributed 54 assists and 37 steals.
Graverson, Schauer, Neumann and Schell were quad captains this season.
Kathrens praised seniors Graverson, Schauer and Neumann for their leadership and contributions.
'We were enthralled with them, and we turned to them for so much,' he said.
Kathrens knows that the trio's graduation will leave large holes in the lineup but noted that both the junior varsity and freshmen teams had good seasons.
Key returnees include Schell and Lee, as well as 6-2 freshman Marina Rajkovic, 5-5 freshman Alyssa Danes, 6-0 sophomore Val Halbur and 5-8 junior Kaylee Grube, who missed this season with a knee injury.
'We put the best 15 players, regardless of age, on the varsity this season,' Kathrens said. 'It'll be interesting where we go next year.'