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NORMAL – For four years, since she started her first game of her freshman year, Jenna Thorp has been the Hinckley-Big Rock girls basketball team's star.
And for four years, she rarely has smiled at a game.
That's her game face, which never changes. Bad call, she moves on. Thirty-point game, just doing her job. State championship, let's do it again.
On Saturday, the best girls basketball player in H-BR history finished her high school career with a win. And she did it by taking over late for the second straight afternoon in her team's closest two wins of the season.
"I thought Jenna Thorp was just outstanding," H-BR coach Greg Burks said. "Last year, I don't know that she played her best.
"It seemed like, in these two days, whenever a big play needed to be made to help us, whatever the situation was, she made it."
That effort wasn't surprising.
But you might be surprised about what happened earlier.
Two hours before the game, as her team prepared for its biggest game of the year, Thorp was dancing and singing in the locker room with her teammates.
The player who's dominated every night for four years as the "best player on the court every time out," according to Burks, isn't the real Jenna Thorp.
That stoic demeanor on the court never changes. But her personality off the court is anything but.
"She's a little crazy," junior teammate Alyssa Baunach said. "You see her on the court and she's all serious, but in practice she goofs around and it's a lot of fun."
I'll admit, I'm a bit surprised.
The same was true when teammate Jes Meyer told me that, before each game, Thorp likes to eat a pre-game meal of applesauce and macaroni and cheese.
"She's like a little kid inside," said Meyer, a teammate of Thorp's since elementary school. "She's the complete opposite person that you would think she was."
Maybe it was the solid, unselfish basketball she played over the years that confused us. Or it could have been all the "doing what I can for my team" and "trying to play my best" responses she gives after games.
She always has something positive to say about a teammate, or a coach.
But never anything earth-shattering, like when she was asked about her mindset late in Saturday's game.
"The mindset is to fundamentally do what I know I can do and what I've worked for," Thorp said.
And that is what's made Thorp so great.
Never did she get a big head about her abilities and never did she think, as a Division I player, that any Class 1A opponent was beneath her.
She came out and played every game the same way, as hard as she could, and came away with two first-team all-state awards this week and my Miss Basketball vote for the second straight season because of it.
When Burks was asked after the game what he would miss most about Thorp, the answer was simple and appropriate at the same time.
"Everything," he said.
I couldn't agree more.
• Daily Chronicle sports editor Jon Styf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.