NORMAL -- The questions started even before the Annawan girls' basketball team received its third-place trophy Saturday.|
"What about next year?" was a wonder on nearly everyone's lips.
Expectations are huge for a team that has won 30 games in back-to-back seasons, and when the question was finally put to the Bravettes in the postgame press conference, you didn't hear the typical "coach-speak."
There was no, "we're going to enjoy this for a while.'' Also missing was the classic cliche of, "we haven't even started to think about next year yet."
Actually, Annawan is pretty upset it didn't leave cutting down the nets in Redbird Arena, and the Bravettes aren't shy about where they expect to be a year from now.
"Our goal is to get back here and end the season with a win again," All-State junior forward Celina VanHyfte said with a grin, "but that time in the state championship game."
For the junior class anything short of a state championship will be unfulfilled expectations, but is that fair?
They'll more than likely be the consensus No. 1 next November. Returning VanHyfte, who should quickly zoom past 2,000 points early next year, is the centerpiece.
Megan Foes, Maddie Jackson, Morgan VanHyfte and Paige Randall were VanHyfte's supporting cast and, when needed, took center stage. They're all back next season.
Next year, the Bravettes also will welcome the Davis twins, one back from a season-ruining junior season, as Cierra could get over 1,000 points late in the year, and twin sister Dominique will add depth after a mid-season transfer from Alleman's bench.
There's going to be competition for positions, and there's going to be depth. That only forces everyone to get better, and third-year Bravette coach Jason Burkiewicz knows it.
"We feel like we have seven starters coming back next season," Burkiewicz said. "We're ready for next year. We're excited and it's going to be an exciting time."
The Bravettes did get contributions from senior Alyssa Thompson this year. In fact, Thompson started the third-place game and played the entirety of it until the final seconds when she came out and for fellow senior Lexi Sierens.
"I wanted (the juniors) to get a trophy whether it was this year or next year, but I wanted to be a part of it, too, so I'm glad we got down here this year," Thompson said. "We hear a lot about them but it doesn't bother me because they're really talented and we've played together since we were all little."
Thompson also said she wanted to be a role-model to the younger Bravettes. Maybe the most important thing she did was be a role model as a role player.
"She earned the start today," Burkiewicz said. "I wanted to get her a start because of how she played for us down the stretch and how she played for us as a sixth man all season."
That's the formula for success. Selflessness without resentment.
The goals are there, they've been down to state and were a point away from playing for a title.
"We know there are going to be a lot of expectations, and we want to prove ourselves and outplay the expectations," junior Megan Foes said. "The experience this year just gets us ready for next year and we know how hard we'll have to play to get to the state championship."