HINCKLEY – As eighth-graders, Hinckley-Big Rock seniors Lauren Paver, Andrea Binkley and Caitlin Flanigan watched as the Royals’ girls basketball team won its second straight state title in 2010.
They were eager to join a suddenly storied program but aware of the pressure that comes with coming after a dynasty.
Throughout the next four years, H-BR kept adding to its trophy case, and Thursday, the Royals won their eighth consecutive regional title in dominant fashion, beating Harvest Christian, 62-35.
“These kids that are seniors came in after we won the state tournament twice, we had 11 kids in the program, and we had a lot of talent and went to the super-sectional that year,” H-BR coach Greg Burks said. “It had to be kind of a scary experience for them (coming in as freshmen), but at the same time, maybe they learned a lot about what it takes to compete.”
Without Paver’s 30-point effort, in which almost every drive to the hoop led to a basket or a foul, and a smothering defensive effort in the second half, the game certainly wouldn’t have been so lopsided.
The Royals (16-13) led, 13-11, after the first quarter, and when point guard Jacqueline Madden went to the bench in the second quarter with foul trouble, Paver was forced to take over. The senior scored 11 of her team’s 15 points in the quarter, all on drives or free throws. A three-point play just before the buzzer gave H-BR a 26-25 halftime lead.
“[Paver] was really focused,” Flanigan said. “She got some fouls on their big player, and that gave us some opportunities. When they collapsed on her, she had options to dish out.”
The Royals led off the second half with an 11-2 run, spearheaded by nine points from Paver, before Madden took over, harassing the Harvest Christian (15-11) backcourt defensively while scoring 10 of her 14 points in the second half.
The Royals allowed only 10 points in the second half on Paver’s dominant offensive day. Plenty of her points came in the halfcourt as she assertively drove to the basket, but plenty others came in transition off of defensive stops.
“It was people getting the rebounds, and me just driving down and making the layups, finishing it,” Paver said. “The whole team did it.”
For the eighth consecutive time, the Royals will head to a sectional, where they will play Morgan Park Academy at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Harvest Christian in Elgin.
If the Royals win Tuesday, they’ll play in their seventh sectional final in eight years. Plenty of the recent success, Burks said, goes to those kids who came into an intimidating environment as freshmen and learned to play from one of the most successful teams in area basketball’s recent history.
“Lauren Paver had a great night and has developed into a very quality player for us, … and I just can’t say enough about Andrea Binkley and Caitlin Flanigan,” Burks said. “They come out every night, they take the defensive assignment that we need them to take and they get the job done. You look at what we’ve done to win regionals the last two years, they get the job done even if they never score a point.”