DeKALB – Hinckley-Big Rock was able to get the ball into Jacqueline Madden’s hands.
With the Royals down three to Eastland in the Class 1A DeKalb Super-Sectional, H-BR’s Karrigan Cowan made an improbable steal of the inbounds pass, and the Royals girls basketball team passed the ball around the arc in the final seconds, getting it to Madden, who carried H-BR in the second half.
She had just enough time to let off a last-second shot, but it wouldn’t go in, as Eastland advanced to the Class 1A final four in Normal with a 36-33 victory.
“Of all the teams I’ve worked with over the years, I don’t know if I’ve ever been more proud of an individual game effort than this one tonight,” H-BR coach Greg Burks said.
H-BR was able to fight its way back, changing from a zone to a man-to-man pressure defense in the second half.
The Royals were down seven points at the half and five at the end of the third.
The Royals (18-14) were able to get within one after two Madden free throws with 42 seconds left.
With 15 seconds left, the Royals’ Anne Klein was called for an intentional foul on Cougars guard Courtney Walker. Walker converted one free-throw attempt, and it looked like an Eastland win was a simple formality as the Cougars took the ball out at midcourt.
However, H-BR was able to get a chance to tie, as Cowan, who was guarding the inbound pass, came away with the steal that gave the Royals one final possession without having to foul.
“I believe it was tipped,” Cowan said. “I just happened to see it, and I grabbed it and held on for life.”
Madden finished with a game-high 17 points, 15 coming in the second half. Caitlin Flanigan had six and Andrea Binkley finished with five. Madden also was effective on defense, getting numerous steals and moving the ball in transition.
“Leave everything on the floor, we talked about that at halftime. We knew we had to come out stronger in the second half,” Madden said. “I think we all worked together as a team the second half, our intensity level raised a lot.”
H-BR entered the postseason with a 14-13 record after an up-and-down regular season. Although the season ended with a loss, it still was another successful season for H-BR’s tradition-rich program, which won its eighth consecutive regional title and fourth sectional championship in six years.
“Those girls that went down state (in 2009 and 2010), I was in middle school. They were my heroes,” Madden said. “... I hope that’s what people think of us. They see us and they want to play basketball.”