There's something to be said for consistency.
Franklin girls basketball coach Tony Kathrens knows its an odd distinction, and he would love nothing more than a breakthrough one of these years, but through graduation lists large and small, his Sabers remain contenders year in and year out in the Southeast Conference.
That remained so this year despite a large graduation group the previous year. Behind Southeast Conference Player of the Year Megan Lee, Franklin fought its way to sixth consecutive runner-up league finish and a 16-8 record.
"That can be frustrating for a lot of coaches, but there are some positives we can take out of it," he said.
One is the fact that senior forward Megan Lee accepted the mantle of leadership and helped the otherwise youthful Sabers get through a shaky first month of the season that saw them enter January with an uncharacteristic 6-5 overall mark.
But Franklin won six in a row after that point, beating the teams it should, losing only to rival and five-time league champion Oak Creek, to league rival Kenosha Tremper in the regular-season finale when Kathrens rested some sick players and then to DSHA in a tough season-ending overtime regional final.
Kathrens thought the second DSHA game was emblematic of how far the team progressed. Franklin played the Dashers in the Sabers' Rathke Memorial Tournament back in December and suffered a 75-42 drubbing.
"I thought we showed a great deal of heart (in the second half of the season)," Kathrens said. "Through the first half, we didn't really know who we were defensively, but in the second half of the season, we became a much better team defensively. We held teams to an average of under 45 points a game and were in every game."
Through it all, Lee was always there. The Southeast Conference Player of the Year averaged 14.7 ppg.of 53 percent shooting, with 9.3 rebounds a game, 35 blocks, 54 steals, and 37 assists.
"She was a difference maker, she really made the most of her time in the spotlight," said Kathrens.
Other highlights of the second half of the season included a one-point win over tough nonconference opponent and eventual WIAA sectional semifinalist Brookfield Central.
"We had a tough schedule, Middleton (state D1 semifinalist), Martin Luther (state D3 finalist), Seymour, DS, and a lot of that was early," said Kathrens.
Aside from Lee, players who stepped up included senior shooting guard Madison Schell, who led the team with 40 3-pointers (6.9 ppg.), and junior forward Lauryn Logic, whose return from injury stabilized the team's defense.
"Lauryn was our best on-the-ball defender," Kathrens said, "and when Maddie (Schell) started playing the way she was capable of, it made a huge difference. Most of her 3-pointers came in the second half of the season."
Kathrens also noted Schell was a very good weakside rebounder (third on the team with 87) and led the team in assists (46).
Sophomore forward Marina Rajkovic (6-2) earned third-team all-league after averaging 8.1 points and 5.3 rebounds a game with a team-high 53 blocked shots. Sophomore guard Alyssa Danes averaged 6.7 ppg.
Seniors for the Sabers included Lee, Quinn Bachofen, Schell, Jackie Krueger and Kaylee Grube.
"We started two sophomores and a junior this year, so there is room for growth," Kathrens said. "We'll build around Marina, and we're excited about the freshmen class. As far as the team goes as a whole, we have a group of committed kids who are excited about the future."