"It was a left-handed layup."
UW-Milwaukee women's basketball 6-2 sophomore forward Stephanie Kostowicz remembers clearly the in-bounds pass she took from Oak Creek teammate Jenna Santi and the subsequent tying basket she hit.
It sent the state semifinal game with Kimberly on March 21, 2014, into overtime. The Knights went on to win that game and then beat Superior the following evening for their first WIAA state title.
All-stater Kostowicz went to UW-Milwaukee, while all-state forward Tamya Sims headed off to Bradley.
Kostowicz battled a stress fracture in her shin her freshman year at UW-Milwaukee, worked extremely hard in the off-season and has been a strong contributor for the Panthers, who finished second in the Horizon League regular season standings (18-11 overall). The Panthers will have the second seed when the league tournament commences this week in Green Bay at the Kress Events Center.
She's made such an impression on the Panthers this season that she was named one of four co-captains before the campaign started.
They'll be playing in the same city where Kostowicz's alma mater, Oak Creek (23-3), will vie for another state title when the WIAA state girls tournament is held at the Resch Center this weekend, March 10-12.
And Kostowicz has been keeping close tabs on her old school.
"I actually coached some of those kids (on the Knights) over the summer," she said. "They were fun to be around. Fun and close-knit. They reminded me of us back then."
Kostowicz will be able to watch the Knights in their semifinal at 8:15 p.m. Friday, March 11, with Classic 8 Conference co-champion Mukwonago (23-3), but if the Knights make the finals, she may have to miss the championship contest at 8:15 p.m. Saturday, March 12, against the winner of Appleton North (22-4) and Verona (23-3) because of her own Horizon League semifinal.
The Horizon League final is slated for noon on Sunday, March 13. UW-Green Bay (26-4) is the top seed, but a Horizon League Tourney championship would put UWM in the NCAA tournament.
The Panthers lost their league regular-season final to Detroit on March 5, but two days before that, Kostowicz showed just how valuable she is to the Panthers as both she and teammate Jenny Lindner scored 32 points in a 98-95 thriller over Oakland.
Kostowicz punctuated her career-high effort by blocking a last-second Oakland shot to secure the win.
"I really didn't know how many points I had," Kostowicz said. "I was shocked when I looked at the scorebook ... I was able to get a lot of finishes through contact, and it was just a really fun game."
She set a school record for single-game field-goal percentage, hitting 13 of 14 shots from the field (.929), including two 3-pointers. She also grabbed 12 rebounds dished out three assists and had two blocks.
Kostowicz said she is having a great time this season and noted that the team chemistry has been terrific. The co-captain position has also helped her confidence. The Panthers made a dramatic turnaround this season, finishing second after finishing in the bottom two of the Horizon League last season.
"I knew when I got here that I would be challenged," she said. "That the level of Horizon League basketball would help give me confidence ... we didn't realize that we could be this good this year, but a lot of it is because of our chemistry.
"I love where we're at. We're going to keep building. The Detroit game was just a bump in the road. We're not going to take any chances now because we know we have a chance at the NCAA tournament."
Kostowicz said school is going very well, too, and she just turned in her nursing school application.
She'll work hard to keep her focus this week while her alma mater Oak Creek looks to make a little history, too.
"It's very encouraging that they made it back to state," she said. "Just a great way to end it for those (seven) seniors. I'm anxious to see what they can do."
WIAA GIRLS TOURNEY SUMMARY
WHEN: Thursday through Saturday, March 10-12
WHERE: Resch Center, Green Bay
TOURNEY BRACKET: Friday, March 11 — Appleton North (22-4) vs. Verona (23-3), 6:35 p.m.; Oak Creek (23-3) vs. Mukwonago (23-3), 8:15 p.m.; Saturday, March 12 — title game at 8:15 p.m.
Second place in the Fox Valley Association to Hortonville and beat Marshfield, 56-54, in overtime in sectional final. Has won five in a row and 16 of last 17 games. Top players include 5-6 sophomore guard Kari Brekke (10.2 ppg., 4.4 rpg., 90 assists, 70 steals, 33 3-pointers); 5-7 junior guard Callie Pohlman (9.4 ppg., 4.3 rpg., 56 assists, 58 steals); and 5-10 senior forward Grace Garvey (8.8 ppg., 53 percent from the field, 4.7 rpg., 15 blocked shots).
Tied for first with Middleton in Big Eight Conference and beat Janesville Craig, 63-45, in sectional final. Has won five in a row and 16 of its last 17 games. Top players include 6-2 senior forward Grace Mueller (16 ppg., 58 percent from the field, 6.4 rpg., 45 assists, 30 steals); 6-2 senior forward Kira Opsal (14.1 ppg., 58 percent from the field, 73 percent from the line, 5.8 rpg., 37 steals, 29 blocks); and 6-2 junior forward Alex Luehring (13.3 ppg., 50 3-pointers, 3.2 rpg., 113 assists, 39 steals and 22 blocks).
Tied for first with Kettle Moraine in the Classic 8 Conference and beat Arrowhead, 42-31, in the sectional final. Has won 13 games in a row. Senior 5-10 star guard Bre Cera provided an enormous lift after returning from injury for last 12 games of the season. Top players include 6-5 senior center Morgan Glatczak (13 ppg., 59 percent from the field, 10.5 rpg., 34 assists, 28 steals, 141 blocks); Cera (12.5 ppg., 78 percent from the foul line, 5.4 rpg., 41 assists, 22 steals); and 5-8 freshman guard Grace Beyer (9.8 ppg., 53 percent from the field, 31 3-pointers, 88 percent from the foul line, 4 rpg., 68 assists and 30 steals).
Won fourth straight Southeast Conference title with 14-0 record and beat defending state champion DSHA, 50-40, in the sectional final. Has won five in a row and 22 of 23 after 1-2 start. Top players include 5-11 senior forward Madison Hart (11 ppg., 59 percent from the field, 4.5 rpg., 32 assists, 30 steals); 5-8 senior guard Hailey Erdman (10.2 ppg., 67 3-pointers, 53 assists, 34 steals); 6-2 senior center Nicky Widenski (8.1 ppg., 53 percent from the field, 4.4 rpg., 29 steals, 13 blocks); and 5-5 sophomore guard Haley Zylka (5 ppg., 77 percent from the foul line, 3 rpg., 88 assists, 33 steals).