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 Friday, Dec. 13, the 347th day of 2013. There are 18 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: Merry sleigh bells jingle in our streets in the wake of a driving northwest storm of snow and rain. 1888 -- 125 years ago: Thomas Campbell was elected commander of John Buford Post 243, Grand Army of the Republic. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Thomas B. Reidy was named consul of C.W. Hawes Camp No. 1550, and L.H. Eihl was named consul of Camp 29, Modern Woodmen of America. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island aldermen last night upheld the view of a petition signed by 150 businessmen that the city should not install parking meters. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Total volume during the Christmas mailing season may reach 12 million pieces in Rock Island, according to Rock Island Postmaster Carl J.L. Wessel. 1988 -- 25 years ago: The aromas filling the air at the Rock Island Lines depot in Rock Island soon will be prime rib and roast duck rather than sawdust and plaster. A tourist train will be offering dinner excursions in mid-February or early March, according to Dan Carmody, executive director of the Development Association of Rock Island.