Challenge accepted, challenge overcome.
The Oak Creek girls basketball team has been battering Southeast Conference opposition for about three weeks solid with little resistance, so it was good that Knights coach Steve Hluchnik scheduled a road trip on Jan. 23 to Kimberly for a little test.
Which the Knights passed soundly, turning in a good defensive effort in a 51-40 decision over the Papermakers (8-5).
Oak Creek won its 12th game in a row with the victory and improved to 13-2 overall. The Knights (8-0 in league) can go a long ways towards clinching still another Southeast title with a pair of wins this week. They took on Racine Park (1-7 in league) on Jan. 26 and then will host archrival Franklin (6-2) at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29.
The Sabers were in prime position to challenge the Knights until Jan. 22 when they were upset by Racine Case. The Knights blasted Kenosha Bradford, 69-23, on Jan. 22.
'There were a lot of positives that came out of that game,' said Oak Creek coach Steve Hluchnik. 'We played very well defensively. We held them to about eight points until the five-minute mark of the first half.'
The Knights built a 25-17 advantage at the half with the help of a series of 3-pointers from Hailey Erdman. In the second half, the team went inside more often, Hluchnik said.
'They got it to about three, but we were able to pull away in the last six to seven minutes,' he said.
What helped Oak Creek was sound free-throw shooting, as seven people combined to hit 20 of 23 tosses from the charity stripe.
Again, balance was the key for the Knights as Erdman and Nicky Widenski had 11 points each, while Madison Hart had eight and Jessica McIntosh had seven.
'It was a nice experience,' Hluchnik said. 'The parents traveled better than we expected, and the kids played well. We'd had about two plus weeks of not-so-good competition, and we were worried about how the kids would come out, but they did well.'
He noted that McIntosh did well spelling Hailey Zylka at the point as Zylka battled some foul trouble.
Against Bradford, it was more of the same for the Knights as they bolted to a 41-13 halftime lead and then emptied the bench. A total of 11 people scored, led by Katie Settingsgaard with 11, while Hart had 10 and Erdman and Kassandra Bartek nine each.
Bartek also grabbed seven rebounds, while Zylka had seven assists. Oak Creek had 17 team steals led by McIntosh, Settingsgaard, Erdman and Widenski with three each.
'Right now, every win is important,' Hluchnik said 'We get by this week, especially Franklin, we can make a very good case for the top seed (in the WIAA sectional).'