NORMAL – With 11 seconds to play, Freeport Aquin’s Katie Stykel missed her three-point attempt that would have put her team up by two, but the ball bounced into the hands of Aquin star Sophie Brunner, who put a jumper up which fell to put the Lady Bulldogs up by one, 39-38.
The Annawan Bravettes were unable to get a shot off of the inbounds pass after their final timeout, and Freeport Aquin advanced to Saturday’s championship game.
“Wow!” said Freeport Aquin coach Jeff Curry. “What a ballgame! Our kids didn’t play their best ballgame here today, but they played well enough to win, and we’re going back to the state championship game.
“it’s just how I drew it up,” said coach Curry with a smile, when asked if the winning play included a bit of luck. “I would say there was a lot of luck there.”
“I thought that we did everything that we could out there,” Annawan coach Jason Burkiewicz said of his team’s effort against the defending state champions.
“I think that everyone saw what the Annawan program is all about. We’ve been waiting a long time to get down here. We’ve had some great teams. 81-10 over the last three years. We have a lot of pride in our program.”
The game was tight all of the way through, with Annawan building the biggest lead of the game at seven with 6:25 to play in the fourth quarter. From that point, however the Bulldogs scored seven unanswered to tie the score at 33-33 on a Brunner jumper with 3:41.
One focus of the game for anyone who has faced Annawan this season was Celina Van Hyfte. She played 24 minutes of the game Friday on a rather severely sprained ankle, that had her see limited action at Monday’s Supersectional.
“My ankle is pretty bad right now,” VanHyfte said. “It’s all purple on both sides, it’s pretty bad. I’ve been having to keep it constantly in pain to be able to maintain a range-of-motion.”
“I just had to take a breath in the locker room and say ‘OK, I’m going to try to say these words,’” Burkiewicz said when asked about his junior star’s gutsy performance. “Celina, if she took her shoe off right now, (the ankle) is ridiculous. She worked hard all week, fighting through pain. She did everything that she could to get ready for this game for her teammates. I’m glad that she got to be on the floor. She certainly deserved it after what she has done these past three years. It would have been heartbreaking for her to not to have been able to play on this stage.”
With VanHyfte’s efficiency rather limited, it fell on her freshman sister, Morgan to step her game up, which she did, leading the Bravettes with 16 points.
“Morgan is my most-improved by far since the beginning of the year,” Burkiewicz said. “She has been outstanding. I’m more impressed with the last couple of games with how she increased her scoring load just like that when we lost Celina. She has a bright future in our program.”
In addition to scoring the game-winner, Brunner led the game with 21 points on 10 of 14 shooting, and 12 rebounds.
Annawan will play for third place at noon today. Aquin will attempt to finish its’ repeat at 2 p.m.
• Two Bureau County officials — Princeton’s Buzz Fisher and 2 Buzz Fisher and LaMoille’s Mark Geuther — worked the first 2A semifinal Friday night.