OGLESBY – Hinckley-Big Rock girls basketball coach Greg Burks couldn’t have been more proud of his team’s performance in Monday’s 42-30 sectional semifinal win over Putnam County.
Burks said his Royals had possibly their best defensive effort of the season in the Class 1A Illinois Valley Community College Sectional, taking smart gambles to force turnovers and playing good help defense. H-BR also maintained the tempo the way Burks wanted, keeping it steady and not getting into a track meet with the Panthers.
To Burks, it also was another group effort, something that has been consistent with the Royals all season. There was Abbie Tosch scoring a game-high 19 points in the post, Jacqueline Madden taking care of the ball against the Panthers’ press and Lauren Paver forcing turnovers.
On Thursday, a Royals team nobody expected to get this far, will play for a sectional championship. H-BR will take on Annawan, a 46-21 winner over Newark in Monday’s other semifinal, at 7:30 p.m. The Bravettes beat the Royals in the semifinals of last year’s Class 1A Varna Midland Sectional.
“We did a very good job of executing what we needed to do to win the basketball game, and I’m just so pleased with this team, that we can move on and be one of the last 16 teams playing,” Burks said. “There’s a lot of good teams and a lot of good players that are not going to be in this position.”
Putnam County (24-5) utilized its press early, just like Burks expected. But Madden, the main point guard for the Royals (18-12), brought the ball up relatively mistake-free and H-BR set up its offense, taking its time but not stalling.
It was Tosch who was the go-to player for the Royals in the post. She had two early baskets and never really stopped scoring.
“When I came into this game, I knew that we had to get in the flow of the game. Everyone had to get shots up,” Tosch said. “And once we get shots up, we get in the flow of things. So when I got those first two shots, I knew this was the time to keep going, keep that consistency. It’s momentum.”
Madden said Tosch’s scoring presence helped open up the offense for the rest of the Royals. Paver added 14 points for H-BR, and Madden finished with six.
“It was great, because if [Tosch] went out, we could cut, and if she was in [the post], we could usually get her the ball,” Madden said. “And she finished. She finished tonight.”
The Panthers got momentum early in the second half with 3-pointers from Daniela Pavlovich and Stephanie Wilson, but H-BR withstood the rally, and the game never was in doubt during the fourth quarter.
H-BR, a team with only two seniors in Tosch and Bridgette Edmeier, on Thursday will play for its fourth sectional title in the past five years.
“This is great,” Madden said. “I didn’t play a lot last year but this is awesome, to play and be a part of this.”