NORMAL – It wasn’t the win Hinckley-Big Rock was looking to end its season with, but the Royals will take it.
After a disappointing 4-3 loss in the semifinals of the Class 1A state tournament Friday, H-BR returned to the Corn Crib and defeated Rockford Keith, 4-3, in the third-place game Saturday.
“It’s a little bittersweet for us, but it’s still nice to know that we’re third in state,” Royals coach Paul Taeuber said. “We know we can compete and so finishing on that positive note, winning our last game … that’s what we’re here for.”
The win was the Royals’ 23rd victory of the season, the most wins for H-BR since 2003, which was also the last time H-BR went to the state tournament. It also gave the Royals their best finish at the state tournament in program history. The 1979 H-BR team lost in the state semifinals, but there was no third-place game.
Similar to 1979, H-BR lost in the semifinals to the eventual state champion. Alton Marquette, which defeated H-BR, 4-3, in the semifinals won the state title defeating University High, 4-1, in the championship game.
“I wish we had one more game against [Marquette] to see if we could beat them,” senior Zach Michels said. “I really think we could.”
The previous day’s loss didn’t seem to affect the Royals early on as H-BR scored back-to-back goals in the first five minutes of the game.
Senior Bernie Conley netted the first goal after Rockford Keith’s goalkeeper mishandled the ball. After the restart, Conley played a ball to senior Billy Weissinger, who broke through the Cougars’ defense to score with a shot to the left post and give the Royals a 2-0 lead.
“We weren’t as motivated to play after [Friday’s loss], but once the game started, we got back on our feet and played just as good as we ever did,” Weissinger said. “Of course we would have liked to be in the [championship] game [Saturday], but I think we’ll take this.”
Rockford Keith would answer with two goals before halftime, but H-BR responded in the second half.
Weissinger found the back of the net again 10 minutes into the second half after outrunning two defenders and trickling a shot into the goal. The Royals padded their lead three minutes later with a successful free kick from Conley to put H-BR up, 4-2.
The Cougars managed to cut the H-BR lead to one on a free kick with 14 minutes left, but would not score again.
“This is a great way to end the season,” Conley said. “Our coach said we want to be one of the two teams to end our season with a win, which we did [Saturday]. We came out and won.”