NORMAL — Annawan didn’t bring home the trophy they wanted to from the IHSA 1A State Girls’ Basketball Tournament, but they laid the ground work for another potential state championship run next year.
The Bravettes defeated Cowden Herrick-Beecher City 47-37 to claim third place, after playing the defending and repeat champion Freeport Aquin to a one-point loss Friday. They also made a statement, that by returning seven of their top eight players, they will be major players for the 1A state championship once again in 2014.
“Hopefully, we feel we have seven starters coming back. We feel like we’re going to be really strong,” third year AHS coach Jason Burkiewicz said.
“Next year, our goal is to hopefully get back here and try to win the season with a win again, but hopefully, it will be first place,” AHS junior Celina VanHyfte said.
It could have been easy for the Bravettes to not play with much emotion Saturday following Friday’s heartbreak loss to Aquin. That’s not his girls’ style, Burkiewicz said.
“I knew these girls would come back and play hard,” he said.
CHBC and Annawan battled back and forth for most of the first 24 minutes before the Hornets edged ahead for a 32-31 lead heading into the fourth quarter. That’s where the Bravettes began to turn the tables, using an 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter and take a 39-32 lead.
Maddie Jackson and Celina VanHyfte each sank a pair of free throws and Morgan VanHyfte and Jackson took in layups to lead the Bravettes charge. The Hornets got as close as 40-35, but a 7-0 run including a layup and a free throw by Jackson, and two free throws by Alyssa Thompson closed the deal.
“For me being a senior, it’s a great way to go out to end my career,” said Thompson, a Mineral product.
“It means the world to the team that we finally accomplished our goal. I’ve been on varsity teams since freshmen year and every time you get so close, yet you just never make it. I’m glad we were able to do it,” Celina VanHyfte said
“It’s always been a dream of ours and it’s nice to see it come true,” Jackson said.
Celina VanHyfte finished the game with 16 points, sharing team honors with Jackson. The fact that VanHyfte could even play, let alone produce at a high level, was an extraordinary feat, playing on an ankle that Burkiewicz described as ugly.
“I’m glad Qonline has a picture of it, because it wasn’t, ‘OK, how bad can she be? She’s moving on it. Did she (just) roll it a little bit?’ It’s an all-out sprain, and it was just adrenaline and hard work from her all week going through pain keeping its range of motion going,” Burkiewicz said. “I told her last night it’s one of the guttiest things I’ve ever seen. She inspired us and our coaching staff.”
VanHyfte said her ankle was more sore Saturday than Friday, but she had more movement. She had to keep walking behind the bench to keep the ankle from getting stiff and was sporting crutches shortly after the game. She later walked with a significant limp while making her way up the awards stand.
“I don’t think anybody noticed, but I tweaked it again in the fourth quarter. I tried really hard not to show that,” she said with a laugh.