As soon as the Annawan girls' basketball team's 2011-12 season ended last February in Bloomington, Celina VanHyfte couldn't wait for a new season to begin.|
"Ever since last year ended, I've been looking forward to this one,'' said the Bravettes' 6-foot junior forward and returning all-state standout. "I'm so excited about what we're going to do next.''
After last winter's 30-2 run that ended with a 56-53 loss to LeRoy in the Class 1A super-sectional game at Illinois Wesleyan University, this week's Area Pacesetter for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus helped her team pretty much pick up where it left off.
Averaging nearly 25 points and six rebounds in four Temple's Tip-Off Classic games, VanHyfte helped lead Annawan to its second straight championship at the Geneseo-hosted tournament. In wins over Rockridge and Geneseo, the Bravettes held their opposition to 15 points or less.
"I'm proud of the team and what we accomplished at Temple's,'' said VanHyfte. "It's usually an extremely difficult tourney, but we breezed right through it. It was a great way to tell people that even though we lost three starters, that doesn't mean it's going to bea rebuilding year or anything like that for us. It showed that we're still here.
"Everybody looks at what you lose each year; I look at what we gain. This year's seniors will get even more playing time, which will help us, and we've gained all kinds of great players.''
With the Bravettes off to a 5-0 start to begin VanHyfte's third year of varsity basketball, a new role has also started to develop for both VanHyfte and classmate Megan Foes -- that of the team leader.
"Megan and I are basically the only veterans on the team and we have started to step up as captains, trying to work with everybody and help them to relax in games,'' she said. "That's the main thing right now -- we just need to relax. We need to make them understand they can do great things as long as they believe in themselves.''
Annawan head coach Jason Burkiewicz feels that VanHyfte having more of her classmates surrounding her on the court will help her achieve an even greater comfort zone this season.
"She definitely looked a lot more comfortable last year, compared to her freshman season,'' said Burkiewicz. "This year, with the kids from her class, she's even more comfortable out there, and with our new offensive sets, we're building around her more. Celina is what our offense is built around this year, whether she's scoring or creating opportunities for other people.
"Celina's also going to do a lot more different stuff this year; she may even handle the ball a bit more. But as she gets older, she's ready to take on more responsibilities. She's the experienced one, and we do expect more out of her.''
VanHyfte's leadership also extends to one of the newest members of the Annawan varsity -- her younger sister Morgan, a freshman guard.
"I always have to keep an eye out for Morgan, but not as her big sister,'' she said. "I treat her as my teammate, and she treats me as a team captain.''
What's more, VanHyfte sets the example for this year's team by not dwelling on last February's loss in the Elite Eight, preferring instead to move forward.
"I tend not to look back on past games, unless I did something bad I need to improve on,'' she stated. "You can always go out and do things that are going to be even better. My focus is on what we can accomplish, and getting everybody at the level of play I know they can be at.''
AREA PACESETTER CELINA VANHYFTE
Favorite food: ``Any kind of breakfast food. I could eat that for all three meals of the day.''
Favorite movie: "The Campaign"
Favorite TV show: "The Vampire Diaries"
Favorite athlete: Former Rockridge and University of Iowa softball standout Liz Watkins.
Role model: ``Definitely my mom.''
In my spare time: ``I like to spend a lot of time in our barn. It was recently redone; it's got an indoor basketball court, hot tub, TV, beds, even a kitchen -- it's like a second house, and it's a great place for me to relax.''
Parents: Ted and Val VanHyfte, Annawan
IN THE RUNNING:
Tanner Matlick and Zach Nelson, Mercer County: Matlick threw for 211 yards and a touchdown while adding a rushing TD, and Nelson had 120 total yards and two rushing TDs as the Golden Eagles beat Clifton Central 26-7 to reach the Class 2A state football finals.
Elle May and Hannah Nimrick, Riverdale: May tallied 41 points and 12 steals in three Ridgewood Thanksgiving Tournament games, and Nimrick had 41 points and 29 rebounds as the Rams went 3-0 to capture first place.
Carly Adams, Sherrard: Averaged nearly 15 points per game at the Sauk Valley Shootout as the Tigers went 5-0 to take the title.
Riley Walters, Prophetstown: Netted nearly 60 points in four games at the Oregon Tournament as the Lady Prophets opened with three wins.
Colleen Judge, Monmouth-Roseville: Averaged nearly 20 points per game to earn all-tournament honors at Ridgewood and help the Titans to a second-place finish.
Sarah Hansen, Wethersfield: Opened her senior strong on a high note by pouring in 35 points in a 59-58 victory over Peru St. Bede.
Cassidy Clark, Orion: Tallied 75 points in four Temple's Tip-Off Classic games.