RACINE — With her final high school season quickly approaching, Racine Park senior girls basketball player Grace Betker only had one focus Friday night.
And that was to knock off crosstown rival Racine Horlick.
The Panthers did just that, with a 71-55 Southeast Conference victory, but the storyline grew even larger when the final statistics were tallied – and Betker had etched her name among the best single-game scoring marks in recent Racine County history.
All totaled, Betker poured in 45 points, to go with nine steals, eight rebounds and three assists. She had 19 points in the opening 18 minutes, followed by 26 more in the second half, as Park eventually broke open a close game en route to the 16-point victory.
But for Betker, that bushel of points wasn’t even a thought – beating Horlick was.
“I was glad to be able to get the team win,” she said. “Honestly, I wasn’t very focused on how many (points) I was scoring. I was more focused on just trying to get the win. The 45 points came with that.
“I was making a lot of my shots. Everything was just kind of falling for me that night.”
Betker was equally as proud of the other statistics that only added to her memorable night on the court.
“Basketball isn’t always just scoring,” she said. “It was just a big inner-city game. I was motivated to do as much as I could for the team, not just scoring. Last season, we lost to them by three points both games, so we were excited to get another chance to play them this year.
“I’m a senior, and it was one of the last times I’ll play Horlick in basketball. I was just really excited to get to play them again.”
Betker family ties run deep
When it comes to basketball and Racine Park, the Betker name goes way back.
For starters, there was longtime coach Jim Betker, Grace’s father, and his wife Allyson, a former Park player who is an assistant coach this season under head coach Valerie Freeman.
Allyson echoed her daughter’s sentiments about the focus during the game, and it wasn’t until another assistant coach nudged her on the bench that she realized what Grace had accomplished.
“Then a few moments later, he was like, ‘Grace has 40 points,’ and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ We were just in the moment. The game was close. We were down three at halftime. We were just really focused on what we needed to do better. … It was a close game pretty much until the end when we kind of blew it open. It was really exciting.”
Having the chance to share that mother-daughter bond through the grind of a long basketball season has been something special, both Grace and Allyson said.
“It’s fun,” Grace said. “We get to do it together. She likes helping me with things and telling me what I could do better for the team. It’s good hearing from her. It’s been a fun experience having her (there with me).”
With three younger siblings–who all play basketball–and their parents with their coaching backgrounds, dinnertimes at the Betker household can be interesting and lively, Grace said.
“We usually evaluate what we did after the game, what we could do better, what we did well,” she said.
“With all the four kids who are playing basketball now, we like to critique each other and tell each other what we could have done better. It’s fun just being able to talk about it since everybody understands basketball.”
Allyson also has enjoyed the extra time she’s had with her daughter this season.
“It’s been a real fun experience,” she said. “I’ve watched a lot of these girls grow up, and I’m close with them, just being Grace’s friends, and I work in the building. It has been a lot of fun.
“My husband always coached the kids when they were younger, and I never really was a part of it, because I was always with the younger kids. He took the lead on that, and I kind of was the spectator. It’s been fun to reverse roles. It’s been great.”
Betker’s 45-point outburst puts her in select company when it comes to Racine County girls’ basketball, as she became just the third to reach that scoring mark.
The most recent was former Racine Lutheran star, Caroline Strande, who had 45 points against Wilmot in January 2020.
Prior to Strande, former Shoreland Lutheran standout Chelby Koker, a Racine resident, reached that mark twice in the 2018-19 season.
Betker knows both girls and is proud to have her name in that same sentence.
“It’s an honor to be able to share a similar record,” she said. “It’s cool being able to say I watched them and do something they did.”
Betker, who is undecided about college and if she’ll play basketball, said she’s enjoying the time she has left on the court with her teammates – and she knows the end is coming, so every moment is special.
After a winless campaign a year ago, Park has three victories to its credit this year, and that shows improvement, she said.
“We’ve improved a lot,” Betker said. “All around, there’s just improvement. I think a lot of us are taking the last chance to play and just trying to make the most of it.”
Racine County Eye and Kenosha Lens – Journalism that serves.