Sophomore Haley Zylka has been there before. And Thursday night she was there once again, sinking two free throws with 2.2 seconds left in the game and giving top-seeded Oak Creek a 53-51 victory over Brookfield East in a WIAA regional semifinal game at Brookfield Central.
With the Knights leading by 9 points, 37-28, with 13 minutes, 11 seconds left in the game, not too many people figured the game would come down to the final seconds.
After an East turnover under the basket, Oak Creek's Hailey Erdman hit Madison Hart with 1:12 remaining to give the Knights a 49-48 lead, and then Hart was fouled after a missed shot and sank both ends of a one-on-one with 1:05 left to play for a 51-48 lead.
The Spartans' Mariah Miller, who finished with 16 points (13 in the second half) then missed a shot, but the Knights turned the ball over, and East needed a 3-pointer to tie the game.
Heavily-guarded senior Adriana Plavsic drilled a long 3-point shot from deep on the right side to tie the game at 51-51 with 12.4 seconds left to play.
Oak Creek raced down court, and Zylka drove to the lane and was fouled, setting up the game-winning free throw.
'She's probably our best free-throw shooter,' Knights coach Steve Hluchnik said. 'She's won us some games down the stretch already. If I had to pick one (player to shoot a free throw), she would be it, believe it or not.'
Game of runs
Oak Creek jumped out to an 11-4 lead, as Erdman stood unguarded 3 feet past the 3-point and accounted for 9 points in that early run. But then East made its first run of the game, as senior Angela Pichler passed to junior Jen Wendt for a long 3-pointer, Miller hit two free throws and sophomore Molly DeValkenaere hit two free throws to cut the lead to 13-12.
But Knights junior Jessica McIntosh scored on a drive, Hart hit a bucket and McIntosh stole the ball on a turnover and scored for a 19-12 lead.
The Spartans came back on a huge 3 by Pichler and a rebound basket by sophomore Lizzy Cagle, and then Miller passed to Cagle for a jumper. It was 19-19 with 5:25 left in the half.
But then Oak Creek had a 7-0 run for a 26-19 lead, as Zylka scored on a drive and a 3-pointer and Hart hit two free throws.
But Miller hit a free throw, Wandt hit a jumper and senior Cami Cross hit a free throw for a 26-23 lead before Hart scored on a drive and a 28-23 lead at intermission.
East comes back
The Knights opened the second half with a 9-5 run for a 37-28 lead, when East turned up the power, going on a 10-2 run.
Pichler scored on a drive, Miller hit two free throws and Pichler drove and scored on an amazing left-handed flip shot from the left side on a drive. DeValkenaere hit a free throw, and Miller stole the ball, scored on a drive, was fouled and sank the free throw to cut it to 39-38.
Miller hit one of two free throws to give East their first lead of the night, 47-46, but Hart followed by doing the same, and Miller also went 1-of-2 again for a 48-47 lead with 2:16 left in the game. It was the Spartans' last lead of the season.
Goodman was disappointed when they couldn't hold the lead.
'When we got the lead, I thought we were over the hump, but we had two free throws and only made one. Then we get a stop, but then we turned the ball over,' he said. 'These girls (Oak Creek) attack. One mistake on the screen, one little turn of the head, they went right around us and scored (Hart's basket for a 49-48 lead) and put them back up.'
Goodman knew his team had to play good defense against a team like Oak Creek.
'We knew we weren't going to be able to turn them over a lot,' he said, 'so when we did, we wanted to make it hurt a lot, and we did.
'I thought when we got it to nine, then we could get it to 12, but they would make a run,' Hluchnik said. 'Then they came back and made that 3 (Plavsic). We said 'No 3s.' But then we get our little sophomore on the line.
'Luckily, we made one more play than they did tonight.'
Erdman led all scorers with 19 points. Hart had 18, while Miller scored 16 and Pichler added 10 for East.