WATERMAN – The road to history for the Indian Creek seventh-grade girls basketball team wasn’t without a few potholes.
The Timberwolves needed last-second heroics to beat Lisbon. They needed to overcome nerves to beat Newark.
But for the second time in the program’s history, the team went undefeated.
They wrapped up a perfect season with a 26-15 win against Newark at home Tuesday, playing in front of a packed house in Indian Creek’s new gym, which opened this year.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking just knowing you could make history,” shooting guard Geena Sanford said. “There were points in the game [where] it was tight. Knowing we came through and won just felt good.”
With no conference or state tournament at the seventh-grade level, Tuesday’s game was the last for the Timberwolves. Coach Shawn Allen said he was impressed with how the team handled the high-pressure situation.
“I think the girls felt a lot of pressure and stress,” Allen said. “They were really nervous. It was a lot of nerves. The whole bleacher was full. Cars were lined up on the street. It was a very, very nice scene.”
The last time the school went undefeated was shortly after the Waterman and Shabbona schools merged in 1994, Allen said.
Allen said he thought the girls had the potential for a strong season, and even set an 18-0 record as a goal. But even then, he still said he knew it was a tough task.
“We had a talk at the beginning of the year where we thought we’d be good,” Allen said. “We didn’t know we’d be this good. To us, me and Mr. [Jodi] Olive, who helped coach, it’s a pretty big accomplishment.”
The closest call came at Lisbon. After beating the team by 25 earlier in the season in Waterman, the Timberwolves needed a last-second shot by Geena to secure the win.
“I knew we had confidence we could come back and win it,” Geena said. “I knew we could do it.”
Although the team might have been overconfident going in, Allen said, they learned a lot from the late-season game.
“We went in thinking we were going to beat them handily,” Allen said. “We beat them on a last-second shot by Geena. That was our game that made them realize they can overcome adversity and never doubt.”
Allen said this year’s team was a close-knit group of players that was constantly picking each other up.
Audrey Witte, who led the team in scoring and rebounding, said the chemistry was the Timberwolves’ strong point.
“It was a great team, and it was really fun hanging out with all my friends and stuff,” Audrey said. “We worked together a lot.”
Allen said he was reminded of when he coached the eighth-grade girls team in the 2013-14 season. They went 19-1 that year, and when those girls were sophomores, they were part of the Indian Creek High School team that took third in the Class 1A state tournament.
Current seventh-grade players Ava Twitty and Emma Turner had sisters on that team.
“It was nice to have been a part of that group, and now I have some siblings on the team now,” Allen said. “So they know.”
Allen said he expects the success to continue beyond this year.
“They became closer. They’re good friends,” Allen said. “I think everyone helps each other out. When someone was dragging, they pushed them a little harder.”