BLOOMINGTON -- It might be 4th place, but it's just what the Annawan girls basketball team needed.|
Coming into the State Farm Holiday Classic with a 10-0 record and looking for competition, the Bravettes got just that.
Although they lost the 3rd place game on Saturday morning in a thrilling fashion, 53-52, to Rochester, there is reason for the smallest school in the tournament to feel hopeful.
"I'm disappointed we lost, but the girls got better, it's a weird feeling," Annawan coach Jason Burkiewicz said. "At the same time I feel great too. We turned a lot of people into Annawan fans this week."
Celina VanHyfte again shouldered most of the load against Rochester, scoring 25 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. She ended the tournament with a staggering 108 points which won her the tournament's overall scoring title and another selection to the all-tournament team.
"I played Celina every minute the last two games, and there was no other big girl in the tournament that can say that," Burkiewicz said. "I'm extremely proud of her, especially considering the last two games they used her as a jungle gym."
The junior center looked exhausted Saturday morning in the championship day's opener, but willed the Bravettes back from down 15 in the second quarter.
VanHyfte scored 17 of her points in the second half, and with freshman sister Morgan stealing four passes, things started to open up for Annawan. Megan Foes and Lexi Sierens knocked down huge treys but time ran out on the Bravettes,who came back twice down by double-digits Friday and again Saturday.
The Bravettes had pulled to within three in the waning moments. Siernes had a look at an open 3 for a possible tie, but dished to VanHyfte underneath for an easy bucket with 1.4 seconds left that made it a one-point game, But Rochester was able to inbound the ball and run out the clock, ending Annawan's comeback.
"I'm so proud of this team for never giving up," said Celina VanHyfte of the Bravettes. "We all feel bad we lost, but we grew a lot and saw things from people we hadn't seen before."
It's unlikely the Bravettes will see the much competition close to the caliber of this weekend the rest of the season. St. Thomas More, which narrowly beat Annawan on Friday, was an Elite 8 finisher in Class 2A last season and is much better this season. Rochester, a perennial power and two-time trophy winner at state in the last decade is no slouch either.
"These girls didn't know how good these teams were, they were just playing," Burkiewicz said. "They're starting to realize what they're capable of."
That is knowledge they can put to good use over the next two months as the Bravettes set their sights on making it back to Bloomington-Normal, but the next time with a Class A state championship on the line.
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