Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2013, 7:34 pm

Bravettes not about to 'Shirk' their duties in Elite Eight return

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By Terry Duckett, tduckett@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Annawan's Morgan VanHyfte makes a pass during regional action on Feb. 6. VanHyfte and the Bravettes are playing in the Class 1A Bloomington Super- Sectional tonight.
It was a fact Annawan girls' basketball coach Jason Burkiewicz was anxious to discuss with his players, so that it wouldn't be news to them.

"I knew it would come up, so I brought it up with the girls," Burkiewicz said of the Bravettes' 0-3 drought during his three-year stint at Annawan at Illinois Wesleyan University's Shirk Center, the site of tonight's 7:30 Class 1A Bloomington Super-Sectional showdown with Gilman Iroquois West (22-9).

"I figured someone would find out and run with it, but it's not going to have any effect on the game we're going to play (tonight). That's our main focus."

Instead, Burkiewicz prefers to shift the focus from the 28-2 Bravettes' three previous Shirk losses -- to Kankakee Bishop McNamara and Rochester at the State Farm Holiday Classic; to LeRoy in last year's super-sectional showdown -- on to the success they've enjoyed on other collegiate courts.

That includes Illinois Valley Community College in Oglesby, where Annawan won twice last week to earn its second consecutive sectional championship, and where Burkiewicz's club has competed in a summer shootout of increasing strength and competition over the last three years.

"We haven't lost at the (Bloomington's U.S. Cellular) Coliseum, and we took care of business at IVCC this past week," he said. "It was neat to win a sectional title on the same floor where I played.''

What's more, he also prefers to play up the experience factor in tonight's return to the Shirk floor after last year's Elite Eight experience.

"We'll definitely know what to expect from the time we take the floor," he said. "Each game is different; you've just got to come out and play. We'll have more than enough motivation for this game. I think it'll be a good night for us."

Last year's 56-53 super-sectional loss to LeRoy is the last time the state's second-ranked Bravettes have lost to a 1A team. If they get by tonight's showdown, they could square off with the top-ranked 1A team in Illinois in Friday afternoon's state semifinals at Redbird Arena in Normal. Freeport Aquin takes on Elgin Westminster Christian in tonight's DeKalb Super-Sectional.

"Last year's run was awesome," said Annawan junior forward Megan Foes. "Just the atmosphere of it, and how happy everyone was after our wins. I think last year showed us what we could accomplish coming into this season."

Like the rest of her teammates, Foes is also looking at tonight's game as more of a personal mission, especially after last February's near-miss.

"Personally, I think of mistakes I made in that game," she said. "That pushes me to work even harder to overcome that. I know what it felt like last year, and it shows me that every little thing counts in these kind of games. We had high hopes last year, and we let ourselves down. We're not going to let ourselves down again.

"Like anything else in life, things have to get bad before they get better. Sometimes it's good to experience those things, and I think last year was our bad time."