SHABBONA – Immediately after Indian Creek’s loss on the road to Hinckley-Big Rock, Timberwolves coach Joe Piekarz was as upbeat and optimistic as a losing coach could be.
Indian Creek’s rally from a 16-point, second-half deficit came up just short in a 64-60 loss to H-BR, the Timberwolves’ first loss in Little Ten Conference.
“You’re always disappointed when you come up short like that in a game, but I think we were able to take some positives away from it where we were able to compete pretty hard with a good solid team in the conference.”
Over the past two seasons, Indian Creek has found itself just outside the Little Ten elite.
Last year they took fourth in the Little Ten tournament, falling to H-BR in the semis and losing a close game to Newark in the third-place game. In 2011, the Timberwolves were second, losing in the championship game to Newark.
But Indian Creek sees this year’’s tournament at Somonauk as another opportunity to prove it belongs in the conference’s upper echelon.
“It’s very competitive and that’s what we like about it,” senior point guard Kyle Lieving said. “We don’t like easy games, we like teams that will actually put up a fight.”
Piekarz notes that the tournament symbolizes the start of the final third of the Timberwolves’ schedule. While Indian Creek will have a handful of Little Ten games following this week’s tournament, Piekarz wants to see a final push start at Somonauk.
“I think we use it to try and hopefully start to play our best basketball around this time,” Piekarz said. “It’s fun to play in a tournament atmosphere, it’s similar to a regional. I think ti’s a great opportunity to get ready for regionals.”
Indian Creek is the No. 3 seed in this year’s tournament and will face Leland-Earlville in the first round. A date with No. 2 Newark likely awaits in the semis and top-seeded H-BR would be the probable opponent in the final. The Timberwolves haven’t beaten H-BR in three meetings over the past two years.
“I’m happy that we came back and put up a fight,” Lieving said. “We didn’t get the win, but there’s a chance that we can play them again in the Little Ten and we’re excited for that. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
The school hasn’t won the Little Ten tournament since 1991, when Shabbona took home the championship two years before it merged with Waterman to form Indian Creek.
Piekarz said making a run in the IHSA postseason is the biggest goal for Indian Creek. But this week’s Little Ten tournament still carries weight.
“[A championship] would mean a lot to all of us,” senior Jaron Todd said. “We just need to slow it down on offense, get our sets in, score better than we have and really focus on the defense.”