OGLESBY – Hinckley-Big Rock took the floor in a sectional final for the sixth time in the past seven seasons Thursday evening at Illinois Valley Community College.
This time, the result wasn’t what the Royals wanted. H-BR lost, 64-44, to an extremely talented Annawan team. Despite the tough defeat, H-BR coach Greg Burks felt his team’s 2013 run kept H-BR’s strong tradition of girls basketball going.
“As I told them in the locker room, over the last four years I’ve graduated 13 players and four managers and have had three assistant coaches go on to take different jobs, and these kids at the end of the season prove that what we do at Hinckley-Big Rock stands the test of time,” Burks said. “I’m really indebted to them for elevating their game and showing that what we do and the things we we can do as a collective group are the right way to play basketball and conduct your business.
“We had a really nice run at the end of the season when a lot of people had written us off. I’m really pleased with what they did and the fact that we were able to get back here.”
The Bravettes’ full-court press and the offensive force that was 6-foot center Celina VanHyfte was just too much for H-BR (18-13). Van Hyfte finished the game with 21 points.
The Royals made a run at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter, which brought them to within single digits at 49-40, but the Bravettes (28-2) responded with a 15-4 run to end the contest.
Burks said Annawan, which hasn’t lost to a Class 1A school all season, is one of four or five teams with a legitimate shot at a state title.
After the loss, H-BR’s players weren’t hanging their heads. A team that had only two seniors, forwards Abbie Tosch and Bridgette Edmeier, made it all the way to the Sweet 16, something the Royals were proud of.
“It was really fun. I don’t think anyone really expected us to go this far,” sophomore guard Jacqueline Madden said. “It’s fun to prove them wrong and show them we can do it, even with all our youth.”
Madden finished with a team-high 19 points for H-BR. Lauren Paver added nine and Karrigan Cowan and Abbie Tosch each had six. After a loss to Indian Creek on Jan. 18, which put the Royals a game under .500, they responded with eight consecutive wins before losing Thursday night.
In the end, the Royals gained experience and used it to their advantage, playing well at the right time.
“It was great because everybody underestimated us. I didn’t think we’d get this far,” Paver said. “It’s great to show ourselves that we can actually do that, it’s great to get this far. It’s a bummer to lose, but they’re a really good team.”