NORMAL -- This season will be forever known as the Annawan girls' basketball team's bronze age.
But after beating state title-game tested Cowden-Herrick-Beecher City, 47-37 in the IHSA Class 1A State Tournament's third-place game Saturday afternoon at Redbird Arena, the Bravettes hope next season will bring a golden epoch.
"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."
Still battling a badly injured right ankle that had some speculating on whether or not she would even play in Saturday's bronze-medal contest, the 6-foot standout put up 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, matching classmate and Bravettes' guard Maddie Jackson for game-high scoring honors.
VanHyfte also blocked a game-best seven shots and added seven rebounds while breaking her own single-season scoring record of 729 points set last winter.The first-team All-Stater finished this season with 736 points and moved closer to the 2,000-point career mark.
VanHyfte's efforts also enabled Annawan (30-3) to equal last year's single-season school record for victories.
"The ankle was more sore, but I had more movement, and that was good,'' she said. "Actually, I tweaked it again in the fourth quarter, but I tried not to show it.''
VanHyfte's own injury experience also led her to show sympathy for the Hornets' 6-foot-1 senior post force, Micah Jones, who went down holding her left knee with 7:03 left in the fourth quarter.
CHBC (26-7) was clinging to a 32-31 lead at the time, and with the Hornets' first-team All-Stater briefly sidelined, the Bravettes started an 8-0 run that gave them the lead for good at 39-32.
"I'd had meniscus surgery during my freshman year, so yeah, it scared me,'' said Jones, bound for Southern Illinois-Edwardsville after leading all rebounders with 21 boards to go with 13 points.
Compounding the Hornets' fright was the play of Jackson, who netted half of her 16 points in the final period, including a bucket that gave Annawan that 39-32 lead with five minutes left in the game.
That also was roughly the same point in Friday's semis that the Bravettes held a similarly-sized lead on Freeport Aquin before falling 39-38 in a thriller. Aquin repeated as 2A champs by topping Mount Pulaski, 55-46.
"We had to keep reminding ourselves that the game was not over yet,'' said Annawan junior forward Megan Foes. "We just had to keep pushing.''
The Bravettes used their formidable defense to begin their big push.
Forcing Iroquois West into 29 turnovers in its Elite Eight win, and then forcing 20 Aquin miscues on Friday, Annawan continued to wreak havoc by forcing the Hornets into 21 turnovers, with Foes notching six steals and Alyssa Thompson and Morgan VanHyfte notching four apiece.
Eleven of CHBC's miscues came after a back-and-forth first half, with Annawan leading 13-12 after one quarter, and Jones forcing a 22-22 tie at intermission by drawing a foul at the horn and hitting one of two free throws.
"Even when we're not shooting well, our defense carries us,'' Jackson said. "It has been since the beginning of the year. We put on great ball-pressure. I know both of them (Aquin's Arizona State-signed Sophie Brunner and CHBC's Jones) are great players, but I think we did a good job of contesting their shots.''
In the third quarter, the Bravettes hit a drought by missing their first seven shots, enabling CHBC to work its way to a 30-26 edge by the middle of the period, the largest lead the Hornets enjoyed.
Annawan then rattled off five unanswered points to retake the lead before CHBC's Autumn Riley drained a bucket with nine seconds left to put her club up 32-31 at the end of three periods.
But once Jones hurt her knee, any momentum CHBC had seemed to go into the locker room with its senior star, and the Bravettes were there to make sure the opportunity was not lost.
"I told our seniors we've had a great year, so let's go out with a victory,'' said Annawan coach Jason Burkiewicz, who returns his entire starting five for 2013-14. "We lost a game due to snow; otherwise we might've gotten 31 (wins). It feels real good to tie the record and get a trophy.
"We talked about how the third-place game could be boring, mentally and physically. The girls were out of (the title running) at this point, but that's not our style. I knew the girls would be ready to come back and play hard.''
Today is Sunday, Dec. 8, the 342nd day of 2013. There are 23 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: For the whole of last week we have been favored with the most delightful Indian summer weather, and mercury ranging from 40 to 65 above zero. The river is entirely clear of ice and looks as mild and soft as summer. 1888 -- 125 years ago: Albert Johnson was appointed a deputy in the circuit clerk's office. 1913 -- 100 years ago: 800 or more tons of earth in six landslides covered 38th Street for a distance of 200 feet near 7th Avenue and destroyed much property. 1938 -- 75 years ago: One of the 350-foot towers, which with a new transmitter will increase the power of WHBF to 1,000 watts day and night, has been completed on a 20-acre tract at 23rd Avenue and 51st Street, Moline. 1963 -- 50 years ago: In cooperation with The Associated Press, The Argus presents to its readers a complete, beginning-to-end account of one of the most tragic and dreadful chapters in American history, the assassination of President Kennedy, available in book form, and now in preparation. The book is entitled "The Torch is Passed." 1988 -- 25 years ago: Deere & Co. stockholders received good news of a boost in their quarterly dividends from 20 to 30 cents per share of common stock. The dividend, made to stockholders of record on Dec. 30, will be payable on Feb. 1, 1989.