IHSA 1A State Semifinal: Annawan 59, Sterling Newman 44
PEORIA — Annawan Braves basketball plays well in Peoria.
Annawan outscored Sterling Newman in every quarter, never trailing along the way en route to a 59-44 win over the Comets in Friday’s IHSA Class 1A State semifinals game at Carver Arena in downtown Peoria.
“It was a great team win because we got great contributions from everybody,” said Annawan coach Alex Coppejans, who played on the Braves first state team in 2009, which placed fourth. “Everybody came in and did their job to the best of their ability. We kept things pretty simple for the guys and they executed on the offensive end and just played hard on the defensive end. As a coach I’m really proud of them.”
The Braves (31-3) will play for their first state championship Saturday, taking on Okawville, (26-8) which beat Goreville 48-33, at 1 p.m.
Senior Owen Landwehr of Mineral, an AP First Team All-Stater, led Annawan with 19 points, including 10 in the first quarter to jump start the Braves to a 15-9 lead.
“We wanted to come out in the first three minutes and take it to them and that’s what we did,” Landwehr said.
Newman used a 7-0 run early in the second quarter to tie the game at 16. The Braves answered with eight straight points of their own, outscoring the Comets 10-2 to close out the first half for a 26-18 lead.
Annawan extended its lead to 43-32 by the end of the third quarter. Senior Brendan Shaw (13 points) had back-to-back scoring drives and Landwehr finished off a drive of his own from the free throw line for a 3-point play
The Braves threatened to blow the game wide open early in the fourth quarter, taking a 52-35 lead on a pair of free throws by Dante Weathersby with 3:30 left to play. Newman closed within 52-43 with 2:18 to play, but had a 3-point shot spin in and out and couldn’t drop the rebound shot in as well.
Dodging that bullet, which could have made it a 6-point game, Annawan outscored Newman 7-1 the rest of the way.
"We felt at home; like this is our court,” Weathersby said. “In playing together so long, there’s a bond here. We know each other so well there’s not a lot of miscues and it translates so well on the court.”
Coppejans said the Braves relied on the two staples of their season, defense and rebounding.
“Our guys take defense personally. When the other team scores on us, seems like they get fed up with it in a hurry and they just want to get another stop,” he said. “It’s led by these guys. The seniors are who we have out on the floor in the fourth quarter. We trust those guys more than anybody.”
“They played great team defense, but also they rebound well, too. We can play great defense, but if you’re giving up offensive rebounds it doesn’t really help all that much.”
“As coach said, we don’t like when the other teams score. If the other team doesn’t score, you win,” said AHS senior Ben Buresh, who had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. “It’s all hustle and heart and we got a lot of heart and hustle.”
• Notes: Friday's win was the first in state tournament play for Annawan. It went 0-2 in 2009, placing fourth. ... The Annawan seniors won the IESA State Championship in the seventh grade and were state runners-up in the eighth grade.