This is a conference championship group that Oak Creek boys basketball coach Mike Jossie will remember.
The senior-dominated Knights had a tie for the Southeast Conference crown already clinched going into the Monday, Feb. 20 make-up contest with Kenosha Tremper. They did their work and came out with a decisive 65-50 victory.
Out came the celebratory Southeast Conference championship T-shirts and so did the camera phones, which took the happy team pictures of the guys in the T-shirts. Those photos were soon all over social media.
Oak Creek did not let that achievement go to its head, as the Knights used a strong second half to overpower Kenosha Indian Trail, 57-29, on Thursday, Feb. 23, to close the regular season at 20-2 overall and head into the WIAA playoffs with a full head of steam.
"It was a very nice finish,"said Oak Creek coach Mike Jossie. "We finished on a positive note, and we didn't overlook anybody. It's all because of these guys. They're different.They show up and work hard. We struggled early in that game against Tremper because we started a different lineup (it was senior night).
"But this group has come a long ways in terms of maturity the last two years. I definitely had to be patient with them, and they definitely had to be patient with me, but they never went away from the process. Getting to this point maybe took a little longer than we all expected, but we got there."
The Knights earned the third seed in the WIAA Division 1 West Allis Central bracket and for their trouble, drew a nasty regional bracket. They will host a dangerous 8-14 Marquette team in a 7 p.m. WIAA regional semifinal Friday March 3, and if they win that, they will host the winner of West Allis Central and red-hot archrival Franklin (17-7) in a regional final on Saturday, March 4.
"I would argue that Marquette may be the best 14 seed in the state," said Jossie. "This may not be the best sectional (at the top), but it may be the deepest." Greater Metro champ Brookfield Central is the top seed, and Milwaukee City power Milwaukee Vincent is the two seed.
But despite the tough draw, Jossie is psyched for the moment.
"This is the greatest time of year in high school sports," he said. "We'll have a plan for Marquette and then continue on doing what we've been doing. Just come in everyday and have the same mindset."
That worked against as they bolted to a 34-15 first half lead and then were able to celebrate the conference title. Drew Yetka led the way with 20 points, while Joey Zietlow had 16 and Bobby Smith 12.
In the finale against Indian Trail, it was a sluggish first half, as Creek was up just 17-11, but then the Knights exploded for 40 points in the second session to pull away. They hit 11 3-pointers in the game; Yetka and Zietlow had four each. Yetka finished with 18 points, while Zietlow had 14 and Matt Kasar 9.
Again, Jossie could not say enough about the mental make-up of the team.
"This is just great," he said. "This is what can happen when great kids buy into a coach's system and when a coach believes in his kids' ability to get it done. This has always been a player driven team. They're willing to give me suggestions. Some in the past may not have been comfortable doing that, but they do it the right way.
"No one is talking about going onto the next sport (spring). They're just looking forward to the next practice, the next game."