After last year's Elite Eight heartbreak suffered by Annawan, Celina VanHyfte was determined that she and her girls' basketball teammates would settle for nothing less than state this season.|
Powered by the repeat winner of The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus Area Girls' Basketball Player of the Year award, the Bravettes achieved that breakthrough. Going 30-3 to match last year's single-season victory record, and with their 6-foot junior center breaking her own school mark by scoring 736 points, Annawan's third-place Class 1A finish in Normal has the bar raised higher.
"Our goal was to get to state this year," said VanHyfte, who also stands at 1,849 career points, just over 350 away from Annawan's all-time career leader, Kelly Buresh (2,205 points). "I'm glad the team got it done. A lot of people thought this wouldn't happen after losing three starters (from the 2011-12 season)."
But, still haunted by a severe ankle sprain that hampered her play in the Bravettes' state debut at Redbird Arena, VanHyfte hopes to trade up next winter and cap an already-stellar prep career with a gold medal around her neck.
"There's always next year," she said. "Our team is very confident. It seems like we get better every year, and I hope we can win the whole thing next season. That's our one and only goal -- but if we went undefeated, that'd be a plus."
How did it feel to finally reach state?
"It felt amazing. I felt like both the team's and my personal goal had been accomplished by doing that."
Still haunted by state injury?
"Of course, I regret not getting to be 100 percent at state. I felt like I played at 50 percent, and I feel terrible about it. I felt like I could have done even more to help."
How does it feel to be a part of Annawan history?
"Amazing. The way our fans, and the entire community, supported us the whole way through, I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe how practically the whole town turned out for our games. Our fans mean everything to us, and it's great that we were able to do this for them."
Thoughts on approaching 2,000 points?
"My real goal is having the chance to break my mom's record (Val Wancket-VanHyfte scored 2,644 at now-defunct Atkinson from 1983-87). But if not for her, my coaches and teammates, I wouldn't be where I am. I consider myself lucky to be in this position. I'm very thankful to my mom for realizing my potential, and getting me ready to play in high school."
Best memory of this season?
"It was an amazing experience to get to play with my junior class again, and also with my younger sister, (freshman guard) Morgan. It's great to know we've have that next year, along with my friends the Davis twins both joining us."
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