Russom has high praise for Levy and Brekke

Appleton North's Sydney Levy and Kari Brekke helped the Lightning win its second straight state championship this season.

ASHWAUBENON (WLUK) -- After Appleton North won its second straight Division 1 girls basketball state title Saturday, beating Mukwonago. 45-32, North coach Joe Russom talked about what seniors Sydney Levy and Kari Brekke have meant to the program.

Levy, who's headed to UW-Milwaukee, and Brekke, who's headed to New Hampshire, led the Lightning to three straight state appearances and each cleared 1,000 career points. It can be argued they are the programs top two players ever, based on their success and the team's.

However, Levy and Brekke went about things differently. Levy (37 points and 16 rebounds in two state tournament games) showcased her all-around game at state, seemingly getting to the basket whenever she wanted to, while also sprinkling in three-point shots and rebounding. Brekke quarterbacked the team, hit her shots and spearheaded the Lightning's strong defensive game.

Russom watched Brekke from her early days and remembers when he knew she would be his point guard.

"I watched Kari since she was a little girl," Russom said. "When she was in sixth grade I saw her throw a behind-the-back pass to a kid in the corner and I said, 'That's going to be my point guard.'"

She was for four years and the point guard improved every year.

"You just saw her mature," Russom said. Everybody would say, and I always scoff at this, 'She's only five-foot-whatever.' She plays bigger than she is. She's always been that height. She controls the game. She's an excellent leader. When she's on the floor she sees things, she tells it to me and I trust her."

Levy didn't come through the North youth program like Brekke, so Russom's experience with her basically started her freshman season. Russom said early on there were some bumps.

"The first year I remember we had some trying moments," Russom said. "Her evolution as a player has been tremendous. I remember one practice in particular where I had her playing with the four worst defensive kids on the team and she was mad. I got the text that night, we had the conversation. 'If you don't like it, fix it.' And she did."

Levy and Brekke were major players in the program's best run in its history. They will be missed and hard to replace.

Said Russom: "To me, they're just patrons of the program."

Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay

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