RACINE – With her final high school season fast approaching, Racine Park junior girls’ basketball player Grace Betker had only one focus Friday night.
And that was to beat crosstown rival Racine Horlick.
The Panthers did just that, with a 71-55 victory in the Southeastern Conference, but the story grew even bigger when the final stats were counted—and etched their name among the best single-game scoring marks in modern Racine County history.
Petker totaled 45 points, grabbing nine rebounds, eight rebounds and three assists. She had 19 points in the first 18 minutes, followed by another 26 in the second half, as Park eventually opened up a close game en route to a 16-point victory.
But for Becker, that set of points wasn’t just an idea – a win over Horlick was, too.
“I was happy that I was able to make the team win,” she said. “Honestly, I wasn’t so 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 shooting a lot of my shots. It was all downhill for me that night.”
Betker was equally proud of the other stats that added to her memorable night on the court.
“Basketball isn’t always about scoring goals,” she said. “It was just a big game inside the city. I was excited to do everything I could for the team, not just score. Last season we lost to them by three points in 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 played Horlick at basketball. I was so excited to play them again.”
The family ties between Bittaker run deep
When it comes to basketball and Racine Park, the Betker name goes way back.
For starters, there was longtime coach Jim Petker, Grace’s father, and his wife, Allison, a former Park player who served as an assistant coach this season under head coach Valerie Freeman.
Allison echoed her daughter’s sentiments about focus during the game, not realizing what Grace had accomplished until another assistant pushed her off the bench.
Then a few moments later, he said, ‘Grace has 40 points,’ and I was like, ‘Oh my God.'” We were just in this moment. The match was close. We were three in the first half. We just focused on what we need to do better. … It was a pretty close game until the end when we kind of opened it up. It was really exciting.”
Both Grace and Allison said that getting the chance to share a mother-daughter bond during the long basketball season was something special.
“It’s fun,” said Grace. “We have to do this together. She loves helping me with things and telling me what I can do better for the team. It’s good to hear from her. It’s been a fun experience having her (there with me).”
Grace said that with three younger siblings — all of whom play basketball — and parents with their own coaching backgrounds, dinner times at the Betker house can be fun and lively.
“We usually evaluate after the game what we did, what we could do better, what we did well,” she said.
“With all four kids playing basketball now, we like to critique each other and tell each other what we could have done better. It’s fun to be able to talk about it because everyone understands basketball.”
Allison also enjoyed the extra time she had with her daughter this season.
“It was a really fun experience,” she said. “I’ve watched a lot of these girls grow up, and I’m close with them, just being friends with Grace, and working on the block. It’s been a lot of fun.”
“My husband always coached the kids when they were younger, and I was never a part of it, because I was always with the younger kids. He took the lead in that, and I was kind of a bystander. It was fun reversing roles. It was great.”
Betker’s 45-point blast puts her in select company when it comes to Racine County girls’ basketball, as she becomes only the third to reach that scoring mark.
Most recently was former Racine Lutheran star Caroline Strand, who scored 45 against Wilmot in January 2020.
Before the Strand, former Shoreland Lutheran star Shelby Cocker, a Racine native, reached that number twice in the 2018-2019 season.
Becker knows both girls and is proud to have their name in the same sentence.
“It’s such an honor to be able to share a similar record,” she said. “It’s so cool to say I watched them and do something they did.”
Undecided about college and if she’ll play basketball, Pitker said she enjoys 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 losing campaign a year ago, Park has three wins to her credit this year, and that shows improvement, she said.
“We’ve gotten a lot better,” Becker said. “All around, there is only improvement. I think a lot of us are taking the last chance to play and just trying to make the most of it.”
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