The game plan for the New Berlin Eisenhower girls basketball team in its WIAA Division 2 sectional game against Cudahy on Thursday seemed fairly direct.
The Lions were to get the ball to Chelsea Brackmann as early and often as possible.
It's always a good idea to fully utilize a player who stands 6-foot-3 and enjoys a four-inch advantage over anyone on the opposing team, but when that player is as talented and versatile as Brackmann, it becomes an easy choice.
Brackmann responded with the first five points of the game and went on to score seven in the first quarter and 13 in the third period en route to a 23-point night as the Lions routed Cudahy, 63-40.
"We thought we had a size advantage," head coach Gary Schmidt said. "We've been able to do a lot of things with her presence inside. We've been shooting the ball well from the outside, too, so we sort of have an inside-outside game cooking for us.
"At the beginning of the year, we weren't scoring that easily. We really worked hard at getting the ball in good positions on the floor, being more patient, getting better looks. The inside-outside game has really propelled us into what I think is a pretty good offensive team right now."
Lions meet Pius again
The victory improved Eisenhower to 19-6 and sent the Lions to a sectional title contest against Woodland Conference rival Pius XI (23-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Brookfield Central High School.
The Lady Popes, who advanced with a 62-33 romp over Whitefish Bay on Thursday night, topped Eisenhower twice this season while winning the Woodland West championship.
One of those victories came during the Lions' 0-3 start, but Eisenhower is a much different team now.
"I'm real proud of our kids," Schmidt said. "(We had the) 0-3 start, and we've come this far. I'm real happy with where we're at right now."
That feeling was echoed by Brackmann, who said, "At the beginning of the year, we were definitely not as good as we have been (lately). We definitely developed our game and we learned to play with each other."
Schmidt said the season has been a long journey for a young team, with just two seniors on the roster, but the Lions ended up at their preferred destination.
"We told the kids, we start preparing back in November," he said. "This is where we want to be, at the sectional. Not a lot of people gave us a chance; we're a young team. We had a lot of new faces on the team.
"No one knew what we were going to be. We were just trying to get to this point, where we could play in a sectional."
Take care of business
Once Eisenhower got to that sectional, it took care of business quickly against Cudahy (9-16).
Brackmann opened the game with a three-point play and added an inside basket as part of a 7-0 start. Cudahy's Hannah Olson netted a 3-point shot, the first of four for her on the evening, to make it 7-3.
The Lions went on a 13-0 run featuring a pair of 3-pointers from Anthie Katris and five points from Katie Schlegel to go up 20-3.
Eisenhower built its lead in the second period as Sydney Cheung and Emalie Hahn both hit 3-pointers. Schlagel connected on two free throws after being fouled at the halftime buzzer as the Lions took a 37-13 advantage.
They hit 12 of their first 17 shots from the floor and 13 of 23 (57 percent) for the half.
The Lions then went back to Brackmann in the third quarter, as she collected 13 points, including seven in a row at one point.
Eisenhower took a 55-22 lead late in the third before Brackmann and a few others went to the bench for the rest of the night.
Schmidt had plenty of praise for his standout sophomore.
Praise from Bennett
"Kathy Bennett from Illinois State told me that she thinks (Brackmann) might be one of the best centers in the state right now," Schmidt said. "She plays hard, she works hard, she doesn't have an ego.
"She's a fun-loving kid and enjoys (the game). She'll pass the ball and she'll score; she'll do whatever it takes. That's been our team concept all year.
Besides Brackmann's 23 points, Schlegel finished with 10 points, Katris nine points and Sammy Kozlowski six points.
For Cudahy, Olson tallied 12 points, all on 3-pointers, while Virginia Lachenschmidt, Bailey Kratt and Jordan Meyers each scored 7 points.
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