The Rock Island girls basketball team wanted to make history. Mission accomplished.
Thursday night, Rocky clinched at least a share of the Western Big 6 Conference title by beating Galesburg 66-60. The win puts two games between the Rocks and the United Township Panthers, whom Rocky has swept. It's the first time in school history the Rocks have won back-to-back WB6 crowns.
The recipe for success Thursday was defense. The Rocks (22-2, 8-0 WB6) shut down Streaks (17-10, 5-3 WB6) all-stater Jessica Lieber, holding the hot-shooting senior without a field goal the entire game. She finished with 12 points, all from the free-throw line.
Shavonne Brewer drew the assignment of playing Lieber face-to-face full court, happily accepting the challenge.
"I didn't want her to get into a rhythm because she's a good player and can really shoot," Brewer said. "When coach told me in practice I would be guarding her, I came into the game ready."
Brewer and Lieber, the two stars of the conference this season, gave each other an appreciative hug after the game as it's the last time the two will share the court.
Brewer's star shone brightest, though, in the biggest Big 6 game of the season. The senior guard scored a game-high 23 points while also leading the Rocks with seven rebounds, five steals and a pair of assists.
Driving to the basket early, Brewer got into a rhythm, something she failed to do while scoring just six points against UT last Thursday.
"I know my shooting's been off, so I figured I'd go to the basket until my shots starts to go down," said Brewer who was a sturdy 9-for-16 from the field. "The rest of the girls kind of feed off me and when I can get started early, everyone seems to relax."
The Rocks looked the part of a conference champion, answering runs every time the Streaks got close. Not once did the Rocks trail, leading by as many as 15 with 6:40 to play.
Galesburg started to chip away thanks to Haley Kelso's pair of 3s and Lieber getting to the line. GHS got as close as 60-57 with two minutes to play before the Rocks made free throws to pull away.
"We just kind of ran out of gas in the fourth," Galesburg coach Evan Massey said. "We didn't handle the ball well in the first half, and that was the difference in the fourth quarter."
Sabrina Clay also had a monster game for the Streaks off the bench. The sophomore finished with 13 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Rock Island only made one basket in the final five minutes of the game, but made good on 8-of-12 from the free-throw line.
Cairece Allen went 3-for-4 from the stripe in the fourth, and finished with nine points, while Mercedes Jackson added eight points and five rebounds coming off the bench. In all, 12 Rocks scored, 10 of them making baskets. Galesburg had just five girls make shots.
"Galesburg focuses on a couple of players to run their offense and it has to go through Lieber or Sharron Diggins," Rock Island coach Thad Hoover said. "That constrains them a little more."
Diggins, a state track qualifier, made contact with a couple of Rocks late in the game but didn't draw the foul. She crumpled to the floor with what appeared to be a knee injury.
The conference title is Rocky's sixth, although only once have they won it outright, in 1985-86, something they could shore up next week, playing Moline, before closing the season at Quincy the following Thursday.
"We know our business isn't done yet," Brewer said adding they want to be 10-0. "We don't want to share it with anyone."
Today is Thursday, July 31, the 212th day of 2014. There are 153 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: A corps of surgeons now occupies the new hospital quarters at the Garrison Hospital on the Rock Island Arsenal. A fence has been installed to enclose the prison hospital. 1889 -- 125 years ago: B. Winter has let a contract to Christ Schreiner for a two story brick building with a double store front on the south side of 3rd Avenue just west of 17th Street. The estimated cost was $4,500. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Germany sent simultaneous ultimatums to Russia and France, demanding that Russia suspend mobilization within 12 hours and demanding that France inform Germany within 18 hours. In the case of war between Germany and Russia, France would remain neutral. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Civil service offices at the post office and the Rock Island Arsenal were swamped as more than 700 youths sought 15 machinist apprenticeships at the Arsenal. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Last night, American Legion Post 246 in Moline figuratively handed over the trousers to a female ex-Marine and petticoat rule began. Olga Swanson, of Moline, was installed as the first woman commander of the post . 1989 -- 25 years ago: The Illinois Quad City Civic Center captured the excitement and interest of a convention of auditorium managers this weekend in Reno, Nev. Bill Adams, civic center authority chairman, said the 10,000-seat arena planned for downtown Moline has caught the eye of construction firms, suppliers, management teams and concession groups.