ANNAWAN — Overcoming all obstacles, including one they could not have foreseen, the Annawan Bravettes played their way to the IHSA 1A state finals for the first time in school history, defeating Gilman Iroquois West 45-40 in Monday’s Bloomington Supersectional at Illinois Wesleyan’s Shirk Center.
Annawan (29-2) will meet top-ranked and defending state champion Freeport Aquin (29-3) at 12:15 p.m. Friday in the state semifinals at ISU’s Redbird Arena in Normal.
“We are looking forward to going down to Redbird and show the heart and pride this program has been playing with the past few years. We are not happy just to be there. We want it all,” Annawan coach Jason Burkiewicz said.
The day started Monday morning with All-State center Celina VanHyfte suffering an ankle injury during a final walk-through at school. Playing 11 minutes in the second half only on what Burkiewicz called a very bad ankle sprain, VanHyfte had five rebounds and one free throw, missing on four attempts from the field. She averages 22.8 ppg.
She will be a game-time decision Friday, Burkiewicz said, and is being told she can play if she can tolerate some pain.
Burkiewicz said he told his team Monday that “Celina’s had us on her back for so long that it was time to have hers … we thought this could be a defining moment for our program.”
Senior guard Alyssa Thompson picked up the slack early, scoring the Bravettes first six points of the game. She finished with 12 points,
Another of the many Bravettes stepping up was VanHyfte’s sister, Morgan, a freshman guard, who delivered a game-high 18 points.
“I just had to try and play, just zone everything else out and play my regular game,” Morgan VanHyfte told the Moline Dispatch-Rock Island Arqus. “We were all for Celina, and we knew it was time for us to carry her. We all kept positive, and we found a way.”
“We knew it was not going to be easy when you lose a big part of your offense eight hours before game time,” Burkiewicz said. “But we stuck together and pulled it off.”
The Bravettes will need to stick together again when they face Aquin. The Bulldogs may be No. 1 ranked and the defending state champion, the Bravettes have knowledge they beat them over the summer by 27 point in a game Burkiewicz said, “I feel like it was more important a game to us than to them.”
Burkiewicz said Aquin plays a 2-3 zone and are very aggressive out of it.
“They don’t pack down but rather like to rotate quickly and get in passing lanes for steals,” he said.
On Monday, Aquin rode the power of 6-1 senior center Sophie Brunner (26 points, 14 rebounds to a 57-39 win over Elgin Westminster Christian at the DeKalb Supersectional. She’s averaging 20.7 points and 10.5 rebounds a game.
The Bulldogs also return seniors Haley Change (7.3 ppg) and Leah Hauser (3.0 ppg) from the starting lineup from last year’s state championship win over Cowden-Herrick. The downstate Hornets also made their way back to state this year.
The second state semifinal of the day Friday, matches Cowden-Herrick (26-5) vs. Mt. Pulaski (28-4) at 2 p.m. The finals will tip off at noon Saturday for third place with the 2A sessions slated for Saturday evening.