HINCKLEY — For the first 16 minutes of play during Monday evening's sectional semifinal matchup with Annawan, the Serena Lady Huskers held tough with the undefeated Bravettes.
But during the last 16, things couldn't have gone much worse for the Lady Huskers as they eventually dropped a lopsided 66-28 decision here at Hinckley-Big Rock High School in the HBR 1A Sectional.
The defending Class 1A champion Bravettes — now winners of 54 consecutive ballgames spanning the last two seasons and a perfect 33-0 mark so far this year — got a game-high 30 points and 13 rebounds from senior all-stater and Arizona State recruit Jayde VanHyfte. Serena, though, produced a rock-solid first half and trailed by only nine at halftime before Annawan turned up its full-court pressure in the third quarter to force 12 Lady Husker turnovers, resulting in no points for the locals during the stanza.
SHS finally tallied with less than four minutes left to go in the contest, but by then the Bravettes had reeled off a 32-0 run and for all intents and purposes put an end to the Lady Huskers' fine season. Serena finishes with an overall record of 18-10 after the loss to the No. 1 team in Class 1A according to the final Associated Press poll.
"I just thought after the half we kind of lost our focus on the press break where they went on that huge run, and we could never recover after that," said SHS coach Jeremy Jenkins. "We wilted in the second half, and she (VanHyfte) is amazing and is an all-stater going DI for a reason.
"But we played some pretty good defense against her in the first half. Unfortunately, we just couldn't sustain our solid effort into the second half where they really took it to us."
The Lady Huskers received a team-best 11 points from junior Maddi Holdiman along with six tallies and a team-leading six rebounds from junior Emily Hook. Freshman Taylor Staton also added six markers.
Adding to VanHyfte's heroics, the Bravettes also got double-digit scoring from senior Kendall Gripp with 12 points as well as 11 off the bench from sophomore Keagan Rico.
Annawan will now face the winner of tonight's other sectional semifinal matchup between Newark (22-6) and Kewanee-Wethersfield (25-8) for the sectional championship Thursday evening at HBR.
"We got into a rhythm finally in the second half, got up and down the court the way we like to play, and that was the key to the ballgame," said AHS coach Jason Burkiewicz. "We were able to kick it in during the second half and play the way we do. Jayde's a fantastic player, and she really got going, especially in the second half that helped give us a big spark towards the win."
Serena actually led the contest early after Holdiman put in a long right-wing 3-pointer at 1:55 to give her team its only lead of the night at 8-6. But VanHyfte came alive with seven points during a 9-2 Annawan run that closed the quarter with the Bravettes up 15-10. She'd register 15 at the half as Annawan extended its advantage to 29-20.
The Lady Huskers couldn't find the hoop in the third frame while turning the ball over a dozen times, and the Bravettes produced an 18-0 run to lead 47-20 with one quarter left of contest. VanHyfte then put up 10 tallies early in the fourth quarter and finished her night on the bench before Serena finally added its first points of the second half at 3:35 of the fourth when Hook finally broke the better-than-12-minute scoring draught with an inside layup after the game was out of reach.
"This group knows how to fight and they know how to get after it, and they showed that tonight against one of the best if not the best team in the state," Jenkins said. "This one hurts, but you can't fault any one of our kid's efforts tonight, that's for sure."
Annawan 66, Serena 28
SERENA (28) — Kuhn 0 1-2 1, Tuftie 1 0-0 2, Muffler 1 0-0 2, Marshall 0 0-0 0, M. Staton 0 0-0 0, Hook 2 2-4 6, Holdiman 3 2-2 11, T. Staton 2 2-2 6, Harris 0 0-0 0. Totals 9-40 7-10 28.
ANNAWAN (66) — Rico 3 5-7 11, Randall 1 0-0 2, Jackson 1 1-2 3, Sierens 3 0-1 6, McClelland 0 0-0 0, Miller 1 0-0 2, Peterson 0 0-0 0, Gripp 5 1-1 12, Sturtewagen 0 0-0 0, Park 0 0-0 0, VanHyfte 12 6-9 30. Totals 26-56 13-20 66.
Serena (18-10) 10 10 0 8 — 28
Annawan (33-0) 15 14 18 19 — 66
3-point goals – Serena 3-14 (Holdiman 3); Annawan 1-10 (Gripp). Rebounds – Serena 27 (Hook 6, Tuftie 5, Muffler 5); Annawan 32 (VanHyfte 13, Gripp 6, Sierens 5). Turnovers – Serena 22; Annawan 11. Total fouls (none fouled out) – Serena 17; Annawan 15.