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All roads lead to state

State Girls Notebook

NORMAL — The two schools are separated by just 20 miles of pavement on Route 78 in north-central Illinois. And all roads from Prophetstown and Annawan will lead to Normal for IHSA State Girls basketball tournament play this weekend.

Prophetstown, which has been a 1A school since the 4-class system was instituted in 2007, was bumped to 2A this year. Even had Prophetstown remained in 1A, it is unlikely it would have crossed paths with its neighbor to the south.

While they did play this year during the regular season, a game won by Annawan, the Lady Prophets and Bravettes have never met in the 1A postseason.

Traditionally, Prophetstown (295 enrollment) had been grouped in the 1A northern sectionals and the DeKalb Super-Sectional while Annawan stayed south, coming through the Bloomington Super-Sectional. Ironically, the year Prophetstown moved to 2A, it was sent south to play out of the St. Bede Regional, the Putnam County Sectional and the Monmouth Super-Sectional.

Annawan coach Jason Burkiewicz, whose Bravettes experienced their first taste of state last year, is excited to share the road to state with the Lady Prophets. He tweeted a picture of the exit sign off I-80 pointing Annawan to the left and Prophetstown to the right, saying, “Great job Prophetstown girls!! Can’t wait to share this great experience with our neighbors to the north!!”

The caption for the picture said it best, “No matter which way you turn, the road leads to state.”

“We have great respect for them and our fan base will be behind them all the way.  How can you not be a fan of Don Robinson?” Burkiewicz said.

“It is pretty neat that we get to join them,” Robinson said.

The state tournament caps the 37-year career for Prophetstown coach Don Robinson, who has won 13 regionals and two sectionals, and now his first trip to state.

“I’’ll be honest, this is my 37th year, and I didn’t know that it might happen,” he said. “But I wanted to do it my way, stay positive, be classy, etc., and I told my wife if it doesn’t happen that is OK with me. I can look in the mirror and say I gave it my best shot.”

There is no doubt the Lady Prophets gave it their best shot to make this all happen for their beloved coach.

“I’m so happy for him,” Prophetstown Corrie Reiley said. “He’s dreamt about this his whole life coaching. He talks about it all the time. He’s always wanted to go to state, so it means everything to me and our team to be able to get him there.”

“He’s such a wonderful coach, and he teaches us so much,” junior guard Shelby Adams said. “He’s the one that got us here. He may think it’s us, but without his coaching, we wouldn’t have made it here.”

The humble Robinson reflects back on all the girls who have come through the program, saying, “They set the foundation for what we tried to do.”

Prophetstown rode a 23-game win-streak into Normal, its last loss (62-50) coming Dec. 11 at the hands of Annawan.

It may be his first time at state coaching, but Robinson has experienced the state tournament atmosphere as a player. He led his high school boys basketball team, the defunct Thomson High School, to the 1A state tournament in 1972 in the first year of the two-class format.

While one to downplay his playing career, the All-State guard scored 123 points in four tournament games, averaging an amazing 30.8 ppg, including the super-sectional, leading tiny Thomson to a fourth-place finish.

• Welcome back: There will be a welcome-back celebration for the Bravettes at the Annawan High School Gym at 3 p.m.Sunday.

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