The rebuilding Franklin girls basketball team needed the wins they earned last week over Racine Horlick and Kenosha Bradford in a big way if it wanted to have any hope at a Southeast Conference title this season.
Especially with rival and four-time league champion Oak Creek looming on Dec. 13.
Coach Tony Kathrens was pleased with the solid efforts.
"Each of those games was a mini goal," Kathrens said. "That's what you have to establish when you get off to a slow start like we did. We wanted to go into the Oak Creek game undefeated in conference (3-0), and we managed to do it."
The Sabers improved to 4-2 overall with the twin victories. They are off until Tuesday, Dec. 20, for a tough nonconference game at Sussex Hamilton. Look to FranklinNow.com for details of the Oak Creek game.
Kathrens said these next few games will be character builders for the team.
"This is the toughest part of our schedule," he said. "Where the rubber really meets the road."
In the 69-19 rout of Bradford on Dec. 19, the Sabers bolted to a 42-14 first-half lead, as the entire bench got a chance to play.
Senior forward Megan Lee led the way with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while junior forward Marina Rajkovic continued her recent good run of play with 13 points and seven boards.
"Megan just dominated the early going of the game," Kathrens said, "while Marina is learning how to take over a game. She's learning how to get the ball at the elbow and drive hard to the basket with either hand."
Alyssa Danes added 9 points, Jillian Krueger had 8 and Ciara Farin 7.
The 52-41 victory over Horlick on Dec. 6 was a far greater challenge, as Franklin eased out to a 23-19 advantage at the break and then had to work hard to put the Rebels away.
"Horlick was a solid, and we were really happy to come out of there (on the road) with a win," Kathrens said. "We were never really completely comfortable in that game."
Lee had another double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Rajkovic had 17 points and seven rebounds. Madison Schell had a nice all-around line with 6 points, five rebounds and five assists, and Danes had 5 points and four assists.
Overcoming the Oak Creek hurdle, something the Sabers haven't done in three seasons, will be a challenge, even as the Knights reload.
"We can't tell the girls that it's not important," Kathrens said. "The question though, is can we just get them to see it as just any other game and separate it out, take some of the pressure off."