Because Oak Creek senior forward Madison Hart turned in one of the quietest 23-point efforts in girls basketball history in the Knights' 49-29 WIAA regional final victory over Milwaukee Riverside on Feb. 27, her effort went a little unnoticed by Knight coach Steve Hluchnik.
'And I promptly chewed her out for a few little mental mistakes she made,' Hluchnik said. 'Then someone pointed out how many points she scored.'
That quieted the perfectionist Hluchnik for a few moments, as the 21-3 Knights, top seeded in the WIAA D1 West Allis Central sectional, prepared for another run at the state tournament. They will take on a dangerous Brookfield East team (16-7) in a sectional semifinal contest at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 3, at Brookfield Central.
The winner will play the victor of Brookfield Central (19-5) and defending state champion DSHA (19-5) in a sectional final at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at West Allis Central with the winner heading to the WIAA state tournament in Green Bay, March 10-12.
Oak Creek, the 2014 D1 state champion, lost in the sectional finals to DSHA last season.
The motto, said Hluchnik, will be 'Find a Way,' as the Knights try to solve the Spartans' tenacious diamond trap press, which wreaked havoc with the Knights' old rivals Franklin in an 80-55 regional beatdown on Feb. 27.
'The goal as always will be to get them to play our style,' Hluchnik said, 'but we're ready for this. A lot of the kids we have have been to sectional before, and they know what it takes. We'll practice hard, and the kids will know the goals and they'll know what to expect.'
The Knights will also rely on their trademark defense, like the kind they used to stifle Riverside's all-state guard Alona Johnson, holding her to just seven points, including one of 18 shooting.
Hluchnik said a lot of credit for that goes to senior guard Katie Settingsgaard, the Knights' best defensive player.
'She really takes pride in stopping the other team's best player,' said Hluchnik. Settingsgaard also had a team-high six assists.
The Knights took a 32-17 halftime lead, and though they had serious offensive scuffles in the second half, they were not seriously challenged the rest of the way. Oak Creek trailed 9-4 but then went on a 12-0 run to take the lead for good.
Hart was one who was not struggling as she hit 10 of 15 shots on a variety of drives, jumpers and post-up shots. She also had seven rebounds. Jessica McIntosh and Nicky Widenski had seven points apiece as back-up, while Hailey Erdman had three assists and two steals.
'Our defense was great,' Hluchnik said. 'I can't fault that, but we have a lot of work to do offensively.'
The Knights advanced to that game with an 83-18 WIAA regional semifinal rout of Bradley Tech on Feb. 26. It was 50-8 at the half as 13 different Oak Creek players scored, including Widenski with 14 points; Kassandra Bartek and Hart with 11 each; and West with 10.