Effingham Daily News
Through three quarters of action, Saturday's IHSA Class 1A third-place game was a back-and-forth battle between two heavyweights looking to end their seasons with a win.
CHBC and Annawan played to an 18-18 draw at halftime, and the Lady Hornets built a slim, 32-31 advantage with one quarter to play.
But the fourth quarter became surprisingly one sided, as Annawan outscored CHBC 16-5 in the final frame to claim a 47-37 win and send the Lady Hornets home with a fourth-place finish.
"We knew all season," CHBC coach Carolyn Wendte said, "that the one thing we were going to have to work on was our turnovers. It always seems like we have a lot of costly turnovers at the most inappropriate times."
This game was no exception, as the Lady Hornets coughed up the ball six times in the final period. The opportunistic Bravettes capitalized on their chances, scoring the first eight points of the fourth quarter.
Maddie Jackson finished the run for Annawan with her layup off a Paige Randall steal to give the Bravettes a 39-32 lead with just over five minutes left.
"We've come up with a big quarter in every game this season," Bravettes coach Jason Burkiewicz said. "It felt good to give ourselves a little bit of distance."
CHBC inched back within five after Micah Jones slid between a double team for a close look at the bucket, but the 40-35 score was the closest the Lady Hornets would come.
Annawan scored the next seven points, creating a 12-point lead when Megan Foes buried both of her free throw attempts with under a minute left. Ava Paruleski made a layup with two seconds remaining, but it was Annawan celebrating at the final buzzer, owners of a 10-point win.
CHBC hit just two field goals in the fourth, going cold at the game's most critical juncture. The Lady Hornets shot 24 percent from the floor in the second half, including a 2-for-12 mark from beyond the arc.
After the game, Wendte said the bright lights of Redbird Arena may have affected her squad down the stretch.
"When you get to this point, up here in this surrounding, it's a lot different story," she said. "I think it got to us a little bit."
The Lady Hornets got eight points from Jones in the first quarter, but the star center was limited the rest of the game from nagging injuries and an Annawan defense built on pressure.
"They're a very aggressive team," Jones said. "They did a good job throwing me around."
The Bravettes repeatedly put two defenders on Jones in the post, and pressured the CHBC guards further and further up the floor. CHBC had trouble finding its scorer down low, as Jones managed just five points in the final three quarters of action, including a two-point fourth.
"Micah had to keep coming up past the free throw line to receive the ball," Wendte said. "Credit that to the defense from the other team. We held onto the ball a little too long to make those passes, we didn't get rid of it when we needed to hit the open man."
Annawan created a number of easy looks at the basket from its ball-hawking defense, but Bravette center Celina VanHyfte turned in an impressive showing in her own right. The All-State first-teamer scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
She was also an imposing figure defensively, swatting away seven CHBC shots and altering many more. When Jones was not matched up on VanHyfte after a defensive rotation, the Lady Hornets struggled in the post.
"We lost a lot of size at every position," Wendte said.
One thing they didn't lose when Annawan went on its run, however, was effort. The Lady Hornets battled relentlessly from the opening tip, and Wendte fought back emotions describing her squad's performance in the defeat.
"[The loss] isn't because these guys didn't give 110 percent," she said as tears began forming. "They gave me 120."
Jones finished with 13 points on the afternoon, and tied her state-tournament record from one day earlier with 21 rebounds. When Jones was unusually absent from the score sheet in the second quarter, Paruleski picked up the slack. The senior guard scored seven points in the frame, and helped CHBC knot the game at the break.
"I was just trying to work the ball as usual," Paruleski said when asked about her scoring run.
Paruleski finished with 12 points in her final game as a Hornet. CHBC closed the season with an impressive 26-6 record, and took home the fourth-place hardware. In spite of the trophy, it was hard to ignore the player's discomfort as they battled back tears after the game.
"I'm pretty proud," Jones said. "I should be happier than I am right now."
This weekend marked the third trip to Normal for the CHBC seniors. The Lady Hornets took fourth place in 2009-10, and finished second last season. Jones, Paruleski, Autumn Riley and Taylor Edwards may be shaken now, but Wendte knows there will come a time when they can be proud of the incredible four-year run.
"When these seniors sit up here and have been here for three years," Wendte said. "It will settle in one day about all the accomplishments they've made."
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
CHBC 12 10 10 5 Ñ 37
Annawan 13 9 9 16 Ñ 47
CHBCÑ Jones 13, Paruleski 12, Riley 7, Ward 3, Hermmann 2.
AnnawanÑ Jackson 16, C. VanHyfte 16, Foes 6, Randall 3, Thompson 3, M. VanHyfte 3.