The upward trend of the West Allis Hale girls basketball team took a big jump when the Huskies won their own holiday tournament last week.
They toppled Waukesha South, 68-63, on Dec. 30 after downing Greenfield, 59-42, on Dec. 29 to claim the crown at the Hale Tournament for the first time in its three seasons of existence.
"It was great to win our tournament, and the kids and families were all celebrating afterward, which was great to see," said coach George Sotiros, whose team improved to 6-4. "We are starting to see on the floor the results of (the kids) working together and playing hard each night."
Schuh has big night
The Huskies beat South (6-4) behind a balanced effort. Sam Schuh tallied a team-high 22 points, hitting 5-of-8 from the floor and 10-of-11 at the free-throw line, and added three rebounds, two assists and one steal, with no turnovers.
Zoe Burczyk tallied 11 points and Alyssa Cruz 10 points to go with four rebounds, six assists and one steal.
KellyAnn Sotiros tallied all 8 of her points in the second half and chipped in with seven rebounds, three assists and one block; Ashley Levack had 7 points, seven rebounds and one block; Julie Palesse three assists, three rebounds and two steals; and Lexi Sevedge four steals, two rebounds and one assist.
For the game, the Huskies collected 15 assists, eight steals and three blocks, as well as forcing 17 turnovers.
"We played our best team game in my four years since taking over the program," said coach Sotiros, whose team overcame a 30-point effort by Emily Schumacher and 12 field goals from 3-point range from South.
In the semifinal against Greenfield (4-5), the Huskies pulled away with a 16-2 run midway through the second half.
Hale held a 32-25 halftime lead and moved that to 38-27 early in the second half on a putback shot by Burczyk.
Greenfield answered with 7 straight points, 4 from freshman post Ratka Karac, to come within 38-34.
Hale, though, tallied 10 straight points, highlighted by 3-pointers from Cruz and Schuh, to go up 48-34. After a basket by Karac for Greenfield, the Huskies added 6 more points for a 54-36 advantage.
Threes were crucial
"They hit a couple of big threes; we went to a zone and didn't close out well enough," Greenfield coach Rob Graetz said. "It was frustrating. They (the Huskies) hit the shots when they needed to. We need to make plays and make better decisions down the stretch, even throughout the entire game. We need to do a better job of maintaining the ball."
The first half was close, with the lead changing hands seven times in the early going, but the Huskies finished strongly, with Schuh netting a 3-pointer for a 32-25 halftime lead. Hale was then ahead for the entire second half.
Schuh finished with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, and had seven rebounds, two assists, three steals and two blocks.
Cruz totaled 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting with three rebounds, six assists and six steals, and Burczyk added 10 points, six rebounds, two assists and three steals. Abby Arena tallied 6 points, seven rebounds and two blocks; Sotiros eight rebounds; and Sevedge four rebounds.
"We're pleased with the win," coach Sotiros said. "Greenfield's always got a pretty good program, and we're excited for where we're heading."
For Greenfield, Karac collected 18 points and Emma Graetz 9 points.
"She's playing really hard," coach Graetz said of Karac. "She's doing a good job in the post, hopefully for years to come."
Ironically, though, the Hustlin' Hawks lost Karac to a broken hand the next night in their consolation game against Westosha Central, a big blow for her and for her team.
Hawks win consolation
Greenfield won that consolation contest, 65-51, behind 20 points and seven rebounds from Graetz and 17 points by Sophia Valero, who hit 10 of 15 free throws on the night.
"We had a successful performance," coach Graetz said. "(After losing Karac), the game plan and rotation changed somewhat. The girls did a nice job of getting to the basket, creating foul trouble for Westosha and shooting 41 free throws (of which 26 were made)."
Coach Sotiros and the Huskies, meanwhile, are optimistic about the rest of the season.
"The girls are starting to learn that when we're composed and we protect the ball, we can be a pretty good team," he said.
Hale takes on Brookfield Central at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8, on the road, then returns home to meet Wauwatosa East at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12.
Greenfield meets South Milwaukee at 7:30 p.m. Friday at home in Woodland Conference action.
Pictured: West Allis Hale’s Lexi Sevedge (middle) provided some defense and extra energy for the Huskies as they won their own holiday tournament last week. Hale took the title with victories over Greenfield and Waukesha South. Photo by C.T. Kruger.