Streaks knock off #1 Peoria Richwoods

 

By John Ring

 

As the large crowd at John Thiel Gym slowly filtered out, new Hall of Famer Pete Thierry was asked to reflect on what he had just witnessed for the previous two hours on Saturday, November 26, 2005 in a basketball game between Galesburg and Peoria Richwoods.

“It’s a beautiful day,” said Thierry.

What the Galesburg girls basketball team did on that day was to add to the already rich heritage known as Silver Streak basketball.

Remember Derek Holcomb? Remember Mark Smith?

The Silver Streaks took on the defending state champions, a team currently ranked as #1 in the State and a program that had won 43 games in a row and dispatched them with a stunning 62-48 victory.

“This is what it’s all about,” said Brenna Saline, who scored 20 points for the Streaks. “This was one of our goals. You work hard in the off season, this is the reward.”

 “Brenna and I were talking about how we’re one and four against this team in our careers here,” added Claire Anderson. “We wanted to get a win today.”

For the first three minutes of the game, it looked like Saline and Anderson would go to 1-5. Richwoods came out on fire, hit their first six shots, exploded to an 11-0 lead and looked virtually unbeatable. The Knights were trying to land an early knockout punch.

But instead of wilting and taking the punches, the Galesburg kids fought the bully back.

“We didn’t panic and didn’t take a step back,” said Saline, who stemmed the tide with Galesburg’s first basket. Still, the Knights kept on rolling, fueled by pint-sized but All-State guard Bianca Ward and took a 23-12 lead.

Kelly Ricketts (13 points, 7 rebounds), Rachel Pendry (8 points, 9 rebounds) and Lia Anderson (8 points, 5 rebounds) spurred the comeback with tenacious rebounding and scoring. Anderson’s back to back baskets gave Galesburg their first lead at 28-27 late in the second quarter and her presence off the bench clearly sparked the Streaks. “Lia is Lia,” said Coach Evan Massey. “She brings tremendous energy to the floor. Per minute, she’s probably the all-time leading rebounder ever at GHS.”

And once the Streaks took the lead, they kept it up. They sunk their free throws (19 for 22 on the day), kept winning the battle on the boards, didn’t substitute a lot (only seven players saw action) and kept their composure.

Ward kept firing but started missing with more regularity. Taylor Young, a speedy sophomore, bore the brunt of guarding Ward and did a more than credible job despite Ward winding up with 32 points in the game. “You have to give credit to Taylor,” said Claire Anderson. “She didn’t foul Ward and made her work for her points. She was everywhere on the court with her.”

True enough. Ward’s quicker than thou first step gave her an edge but Young didn’t yield any of the breakaway layups that doomed the Streaks in three losses to Richwoods last year. Ward grew visibly tired as the game wore on and the Knights even went to a zone defense. “We realized that we could do a good job on Ward and she could still score over twenty points,” said Massey. “Last year, that frustrated Taylor. But Taylor forced Ward to take shots over tremendous challenges and made her earn the points.”

 Ward started to force shots and shunned her teammates. Ward scored 14 of Richwoods’ points in the second half. The rest of the Knights contributed just three. For the game, Hanna Reising and Kylee Grant were the second leading scorers for Richwoods, with four points apiece.

“I should have substituted earlier and our players got tired in the second quarter,” said Richwoods Coach John Gross. “I don’t think this game was about what Galesburg did right, it was about what we did wrong. Galesburg played as a team today and we played as five individuals.”

“We did this as a team,” said Ricketts. “When I went up inside, I just tried to be strong with the ball.”

As Richwoods grew frustrated and pointed fingers at each other, the Streaks executed several backdoor layups to Saline and Ricketts and Brenna’s deadly accuracy at the free throw line in the fourth quarter (6 for 6) wrapped things up before a crowd that was going nuts. “The fans literally won this game for us,” said Saline. “This place was electric today. There’s nothing better in the world than playing in front of a packed gym and have them pulling and cheering for you.”

“The fans were a big part of this win today,” agreed Anderson. “It was unbelievable and I’ve seen some big crowds here. This was amazing.”

“I thought the crowd may have been the best that we have ever had out here,” said Massey. “We played very well as a team today. Brenna set the tone of unselfishness. She’s good enough to average twenty points a game but that’s not a priority with her. Your stars either create team unity or selfishness. Brenna creates a sense of team play with her attitude.”

“We played a physical game today and didn’t back down,” said Pendry. “We lost to this team three times last year. We’re ecstatic.”

So were the fans. So were the coaching staff. So was Pete Thierry, who has seen a few games in his lifetime.

And somewhere, John Thiel, The Mentor, was smiling.