Royals take pride in defense

A simple, yet important quote sticks out for Andrea Binkley.

The Hinckley-Big Rock senior guard, who has been a part of two sectional championship teams, has taken to heart a saying that H-BR coach Greg Burks often preaches.

“Defense, everything falls from it. We take so much pride in it like Burks says, ‘If you play defense, there’s a spot on the court for you,’ ” Binkley said. “We just really work hard at it. We really take pride in our defense and a lot of people know us for our defense.” 

The Royals’ defense has been unrelenting of late, swarming teams with a variety of pressures and double teams that can come from anywhere.

They have held three of four postseason opponents under 40 points, with the only exception being Morgan Park’s 42-point effort in the sectional semifinal.

Burks said consistency on the defensive end is a common characteristic among the top teams in the state, especially in small-school basketball. He sees that quality in Lanark Eastland, which the Royals face at 7 p.m. today in an IHSA Class 1A DeKalb Super-sectional.

“Eastland, who is year in and year out a team to be reckoned with in the northwest part of the state, they are well-coached and execute very well,” Burks said. “They’re a good defensive team year in and year out.”

Offensively, H-BR has been a work in progress but one that has seemingly found its rhythm in the postseason, cracking the 50-point mark in all four postseason games.

While facing a multitude of zone defenses over the last few weeks, consistent ball movement and a developing rapport with each other on the court have been major reasons for the uptick in offensive production.

“We all know what everybody’s capable on the court, and when we all come together to use each other’s strengths we’re very good,” Binkley said. “Jacqueline [Madden] and Lauren [Paver], their chemistry is ridiculously good up front and that’s what sparks everybody else.”

A 23-5 mark in the regular season had Eastland voted as the No. 3 team in the final Class 1A poll of the year. Yet their postseason journey hasn’t been marked by dominance as the Cougars beat Aquin by six for the regional title and edged Amboy by one in overtime for their sectional championship.

With all of H-BR’s success over the last 10 years, the Royals haven’t faced Eastland in the postseason of late. Now, the two teams will meet with a trip to the state finals on the line.

“I think you have two teams facing each other on Monday, I can say this about them ... when you see who you are going to go up against in the postseason when you see the names Eastland and Hinckley-Big Rock, you don’t want to see those teams because you know they are going to be prepared for you,” Burks said. “They are going to come out and play you and get after you on the defensive end. I have great respect for them. You have two programs that think highly of each other.”