OGLESBY – Here's a frightening thought for the Class 1A girls' basketball Elite Eight.|
The Annawan Bravettes, ranked No. 2 in Class 1A and now with a 28-2 record after a 64-44 rout of Hinkley-Big Rock to win a sectional championship at Illinois Valley Community College on Thursday, just got markedly better and deeper.
And as good as the Bravettes are, that's saying a lot.
Fifty-three seconds into the second quarter, junior Cierra Davis, one of the top two Alleman scorers a year ago, checked into the game, her first as a Bravette. Out since the season's start with a knee injury and after a transfer to the rural community, Davis now has become a key component to the pursuit of a state championship.
"I thought it was important to get her some minutes," Annawan coach Jason Burkiewicz said of Davis, her knee braced. "She told me everything felt like it was going 1,000 miles per hour and her heart was pounding through her chest, but we knew this was the time."
In about a quarter and a half of play, Davis finished with five points, three steals and three rebounds.
Most importantly, though, she's now an active part of the team, one that is a win from the state finals. The Bravettes will face Iroquois West, a 46-35 winner over LeRoy in the Bloomington Super-Sectional at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Illinois Wesleyan University's Shirk Center.
"Actually, I thought she'd be in when she was cleared" to play which was when the regionals began, said Annawan center Celina VanHyfte. "She's a great outside shooter (with Davis hitting her only 3-point attempt vs. HBR). We're very lucky to have her on the team."
As the second reserve off the bench, Davis adds to what is already a powerful mix of juniors and one freshman. The lone Annawan senior to play Thursday was reserve Alyssa Thompson.
In fact, Davis' play and return was barely a blip on the statistical radar of the Bravettes on this notable night for her and her team.
Celina VanHyfte had all sorts of big numbers, topped by 21 points that pushed her past the 1,800-point career mark (1,820). She was just five rebounds from turning in the most eye-popping of eye-popping double-doubles, a 20-20. And then there were her six steals, five assists and four blocks.
"I just play 110 percent all of the time," Celina said. "If I do better in one area than another, that's great. I just want to help as much as possible."
The Bravettes had two others in double figures – Megan Foes with 13 points and point guard Maddie Jackson with 11.
But the other wow number was 29 – Annawan's total steals for the game. Four players had five or more, led by Foes with seven. Celina's freshman sister, Morgan, had five, as did Paige Randall. Davis even got in on the thievery, with three in her first quarter of action.
"We depend on that," Burkiewicz said of the Bravettes' defensive chaos, which forced 41 HBR turnovers as the Lady Royals only managed 38 shot attempts. "We've caused 40 turnovers before, and our average is 28. With long, lanky, quick players, we can be tough on offenses."
And to think that that average of 28 was pre-Davis.
"At first it was overwhelming," Davis said of getting in on the sectional title fun. "There were a lot of nerves, but then I got to settle down."
Her playing time could increase as the Bravettes hope to get three games next week.
"We would have liked a super-sectional rematch with LeRoy (which won by three last year), but we have a common opponent with Iroquois West in St. Thomas More, and St. Thomas More beat them 84-30 so maybe that will give our girls a little bit of confidence."
A team of Bravettes that are now better, deeper and possibly even more confident.