The New Berlin Eisenhower girls basketball team is always secure in its identity.
"We like to come out and get in our opponents' faces and take them out of what they like to do," said Lions coach Gary Schmidt after the Lions surprisingly easy 57-41 nonconference victory over a red-hot Franklin club. "A lot of teams don't know us, so we like to schedule games like this. It was a good marquee match-up on a Tuesday night."
Only most of the starpower belonged to the Lions, who never trailed in this game and who improved to 12-1 overall. Meanwhile, the Sabers (10-3) saw their winning streak end at eight games leaving their coach a bit mystified in the process.
"This was almost exactly like the Oak Creek game earlier in the year," said Franklin coach Tony Kathrens referring to the Sabers' last loss in early December. "We get in against a taller, better defensive team that makes us work hard and we fold like a house of cards."
"It's just frustrating. Anytime we play against a quality big (post player like the Lions' 6-2 Chelsea Brackmann) we struggle, because Cassidy (Mihalko, the Sabers' best player) likes to go inside, but we had that taken away from us tonight."
And that's part and parcel of the Lions' identity. They play long (three starters 5-10 or better not including Brackmann, who comes off the bench) and they extend their halfcourt defense to the limit.
They let the Sabers get very few transition baskets and on almost everyone of Franklin's sets designed to free up one of their smaller starters (four at around 5-8 or so), the Lions had the reach to stymie it or force Franklin to reset.
It didn't help that the Sabers' best three-point shooter and second leading scorer Jenny Eickhorst had to sit the better part of the first half with two fouls.
"We knew that they were a good three-point shooting team so we tried to extend our perimeter," said Schmidt, "and our size inside didn't let them get anything going there either. I thought our weakside help was excellent tonight."
Eisenhower went up 6-0 before Eickhorst hit a three-pointer for Franklin. It was 12-9 Lions before they scored the last six points of the quarter to go up 18-9.
Franklin would hang around, as a 5-0 run midway through the second quarter closed the gap to 21-18, but then the Lions went on a 7-0 burst highlighted by a three-point play from guard Sammy Kozlowski that made it 28-18 with 43 seconds left in the half.
It was 28-20 going into the break.
After Mihalko hit a three with 6:23 left in the third to cut the deficit to 28-23, the Lions put the hammer down, going on a 9-0 run to make it 37-23 with 3:27 remaining in the stanza.
The margin never dropped below 12 and reached 20 on one occasion after that.
"We just weren't ourselves tonight," said Kathrens. "I just didn't recognize our team out there. We just didn't have the effort that we're used to seeing. You thought we'd be a little jacked up to play this one, but instead of playing like a 10-2 team, we played like a 2-10 team."
Franklin, which didn't help itself by hitting only 3 of 11 free throws (Eisenhower was 13 of 16), was led by Mihalko with 11 while point guard Katie Nord had six. Eickhorst was limited to just five.
Eisenhower, meanwhile, was paced by senior forward Jenny Weiland, who had 16 points while Kozlowski had 11 and Brackmann nine.
The Lions had to replace all-stater Nicole Bauman after their state D2 finalist season of a year ago, but the goals remain the same for them.
"We like these kids," said Schmidt. "Nicole was a great player, but these kids want to establish their own identity, make their own mark and I think they're doing just that."
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