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Royals overcome Lions’ zone defense to advance

ELGIN – Hinckley-Big Rock may not have earned any style points in Wednesday’s 44-33 win over Harvest Christian Academy.

However, the Royals did what they needed to do to move on in postseason play and will face Mooseheart for the Class 1A Westminster Christian Regional title Friday at 7:30 p.m.

The IHSA has moved Friday’s game from Westminster Christian to Judson University in Elgin.

Top-seeded H-BR had trouble finding consistency early on, leading the fourth-seeded Lions by just seven points at halftime. The Royals (24-4) struggled to get into a rhythm against Harvest Christian’s (17-12) 3-2 zone defense.

H-BR coach Bill Sambrookes said the Lions did a good job of guarding the high post.

“Because of that, they were able to stay in the low post a little bit more,” he said. “So we weren’t able to get the passes in. But we found out what we could do was dribble penetration. We got inside, drew some fouls and got some shots by drawing the defense in.”

Lions coach Jeff Boldog thought a 3-2 zone was the best option against what he called a disciplined Royals offense. He thought his team could hold its own against the H-BR 3-point shooting and play defense under the hoop with post players like 6-foot-1 Zach Alston, 6-6 Dan Turpin and 6-2 Matt Borst.

“I thought we did a pretty good job against their offense and got them flustered,” Boldog said.

H-BR did end up with three fourth-quarter 3-pointers, two from Andrew Klambauer and another from Mitch Ruh. Bernie Conley hit a 3-pointer in the first, and led the Royals with 17 points. Michael Bayler, Zach Michels and Klambauer each added six.

While H-BR may not have had its way with the Lions on the offensive end, the Royals’ press made it tough for Harvest Christian to get anything going.

“Luckily they had some trouble with our full-court press or it would have been much closer than it was,” Sambrookes said.

The win sets up a matchup with the second-seeded Red Ramblers, who won, 45-30, over host Westminster Christian in Wednesday’s second semifinal. H-BR defeated Mooseheart, 58-51, in Hinckley on Dec. 5.

H-BR’s players have heard about the potential regional final for a while now. The Royals’ main goal is just getting a regional title, no matter who the opponent is.

“People everywhere are hyping it up to where it’s cool and all, but sometimes it just gets overwhelming, just like the first game we played them,” Conley said. “We go in with the same mindset every time. It’s not like we’re going in thinking something different. We’re just trying to go out there and play our hardest and win the game.”

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