NORMAL — Bureau County had its share of stars and stripes at Redbird Arena over the weekend for the IHSA Girls 1-2A State Basketball Tournament.
Annawan head coach Jason Burkiewicz, now in his third year, is a 1999 graduate of Hall High School. He played on the Red Devils’ 1998 state runner-up basketball team.
AHS assistant coach Caitlyn Corwin is a 2005 grad of Bureau Valley from Sheffield and the daughter of longtime BVS coach Pat Corwin and distinguished referee Al Corwin, She guided the Annawan F/S to an undefeated conference season this year.
Jason Schroeder, who grew up near Dover, was an assistant coach for Champaign St. Thomas More, which was upset in the 2A state title game. He was the Sabers head coach last year, winning a sectional championship. He went back to an assistant role when Chris Menning reclaimed the head position after a one-year sabbatical to Arizona.
Mineral may have lost its high school five decades ago, but today it produces the talents of two top Bravettes — junior forward Megan Foes and senior forward Alyssa Thompson. Foes was the 2010 Bureau County Junior Miss. Thompson grew up in a family known for stock car racing, headed by her father, Marty. She said she wanted to race when she was little, but that was about as far as she got.
Two Bureau County officials donned stripes and whistles for the 1A and 2A tournaments. LaMoille’s Mark Geuther and Princeton’s Buzz Fisher worked the first 2A semifinal together Friday. Geuther, who received his second state assignment in three years, came back to work the 1A third-place game on Saturday. Fisher, working state for the second straight year, got the call for the 1A state championship and was on standby for the 2A third-place contest.
Geuther had a run-in with Annawan standout Celina VanHyfte when she went after a loose ball and knocked Geuther into the Annawan bench. When asked if a blocking or a charge call should have been made, he said it was a block and a bad one at that.
• Home of the Bravettes: Sports is and always been the talk of the town in Annawan and it was no surprise to see the school and town well represented with a sea of maroon at Redbird Arena.
“This is our world. The community lives for their sports. We travel well.,” said Annawan fan Chuck Miller, service manager for Browning Ford in Princeton.
Miller, whose daughter was a member of Annawan’s undefeated F/S squad, is hopeful the Bravettes can keep it going in the years to come, bringing back nearly it state squad intact.
“We got a good feeling about next year. The coach told somebody before the best varsity team his team played before was our F/S. He’s got a lot of confidence in our girls coming up,” Miller said.
• All-State honors: Annawan’s Celina VanHyfte was named First Team All-State by both the Associated Press and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association in information released at Normal. St. Bede seniors Morgan Dean was named Third Team All-State and classmate Lydia Stariha received a Special Mention by the IBCA.
VanHyfte and her sister, AHS frosh Morgan, are the daughters of former Atkinson High School and Bradley University standout Val (Wancket) VanHyfte. Celina told Lee Hall of the IHSA Network she first beat her mother in one-on-one in the seventh grade.
The girls’ father, Ted VanHyfte was also a Division I athlete, playing football for Wake Forest.
Annawan coach Jason Burkiewicz has lived the best of both sports world, playing for Eric Bryant’s Hustling Hall Red Devils State runner-up team in 1998 and now directing the Bravettes to State for the first time. He said it never gets old and would like to experience it again.
“It’s a different experience as a player. You talk to them about it and try to help your players by being through it, but it’s been a goal of our program for a long time,” he said. “We’ve had some tough roads, we’ve had some tough games where we didn’t play very well, finally we were able to break through. It took us forever to break through at Hall in football and when we did it was just like a three or four year run we knew how to do it and kept doing it.
“Hopefully we have a lot of talent coming back, hopefully that breaking through this time lets us know we can do it and be used to it next time, and be able to perform at our peak next time.”
Burkiewicz said he pulled out Bryant’s old 1-4 set in the second half Saturday to get a high-low offense going.