There was nothing dramatic in the way the Oak Creek girls basketball team beat archrival Franklin for the ninth straight time Tuesday night.
The final was 56-36, and it was just the Knights, who have won four straight Southeast Conference titles, doing what they do best: pass the ball, screen relentlessly, find the open shooter, rebound intensely and hustle without tiring.
It was 31-16 at the half, thanks to a 15-5 run in the final few minutes, including three 3-pointers by forward Kassandra Bartek in the final four minutes, with one at the buzzer.
The lead never dropped below 14 in the second half.
The win improved the Knights to 3-0 in Southeast Conference play (5-2 overall) and kept them tied with Kenosha Tremper for the league lead. The Knights will visit Tremper on Friday, Dec. 23.
Meanwhile, the Sabers fell to 3-1 in league play and 4-3 overall. They have not beaten the Knights since an epic fourth-quarter rally in a WIAA sectional semifinal in 2012-13.
Franklin coach Tony Kathrens could only sit back and grudgingly admire how the Knights, who like Franklin had big graduation losses this past season, continue to succeed.
"Their screens are just hard to get through," he said. "You switch and defend, and then they adjust the screens, they get a little more creative. It's a nice offensive philosophy, and it's hard to defend. And with Bartek, we just lost her a few times, which is something we cannot do. You cannot give a shooter like her room."
The Knights, which only trailed once at 2-0, made a happy man of coach Steve Hluchnik.
"We did a lot of nice things," he said. 'We started out a little slow and settled for some shots, but then we got a few transition buckets, and that opened up some other things for us and helped loosen up that zone (defense) of theirs."
He said he's grateful to have shooter of Bartek's caliber on the team. The 5-10 junior forward finished with 15 points, all on 3-pointers.
"That last shot of hers (at the end of the half), that was a big hit; that's a tough shot a team to recover from," Hluchnik said, "and I know they try to take her away, but we have a few other threats that can keep you honest."
Lea Finn added 9 points, as did Maddie Gard, while Katie West came in with 8 points. Finn also had nine rebounds that keyed a high-intensity effort on the boards. Hluchnik knows the Knights are not as big as they have been in past years, so there has to be a little more energy exerted on the glass.
"It's a little heart, it's a little attitude, a little want to," he said. "You get a body on someone. We don't get all of them, but we'll get more than we don't."
Oak Creek also had an impressive 17 assists led by Haley Zylka with four, while Jessica McIntosh, Paige Cornale and Maddie Gard all had three each.
Marina Rajkovic had 9 points to lead the way for Franklin, while Megan Lee had 8.
Kathrens is tired of the Sabers having to absorb these lessons over and over again from the Knights. He hopes they will sink in soon.
"The kids want it, but they have to learn how to get it," he said, "because there's a difference between wanting it and actually doing it. We're still young. Hopefully this is where we start, not where we finish."