Streaks finally beat Richwoods


By John Ring

After hitting the winning free throw, jumping up and pumping her right fist in the air, and celebrating with her teammates, Jenna Bicego and the Streaks ran into the locker room to celebrate their improbable come from behind 57-56 victory over Peoria Richwoods.

Jenna and the Streaks had to be called back out on the floor— they had to accept the championship trophy of the Galesburg/Rock Island Alleman Tournament— but that whole affair was merely an afterthought. It really didn’t matter.

This win was much bigger than that.

On a day when the Streaks celebrated their 1996 basketball team, on a day when both Joey Range and Sarah Larson— all-time leading scorers and rebounders for their respective basketball programs— were back in Thiel Gym and on a day which saw a large fan turnout on a Saturday afternoon for Hall of Fame ceremonies, the Silver Streaks stunned the Richwoods Knights when they stormed back from a 16-point deficit in the third quarter.

It all came down to this.

Tied 56-56 and 15 seconds left in the game, Bicego fired a pass at the top of the key to Michelle Dennison, who had scorched the Knights for six three-point baskets and a total of 19 points. But Dennison was closely guarded and she fired the ball back to Bicego.

"We had two plays set up," said Streaks Coach Evan Massey. "One was if they played a man to man defense, the other was for a zone. It was set for either Brittany [Stephan] in the low post or Michelle coming up to the top of the key. "

With the ball back in her hands, Bicego had to create something— anything.

"I looked at the clock and it was down to three, two and I thought, ‘well, I got to do something’ so I just dribbled in to take a shot and the posts had cleared out and someone got my arm when I went up for the shot," said the senior point guard.

There was just eight-tenths of a second left on the clock and Jenna had two foul shots. Her first misfired and Richwoods Coach Terry Quilty called a timeout to ice Bicego.

"I just wanted to win so badly because I had the ball in my hands both times at the end of the Richwoods games last year and unfortunately, it didn’t come out good.," said Jenna of the two losses to the Knights last season. "But this is a new year and I figured that we have to come out on top and the second one went in. But I was shaking. I don’t think the fans saw that."

The comeback victory was Galesburg’s biggest since a 77-74 win against Mendota in December of 1997 when they faced a 17-point deficit and still came back to win on a Jaque Howard three-point basket at the buzzer.

Thanks to Dennison, Galesburg jumped out to a 7-0 lead but Richwoods cut it to 12-8 after one quarter and then took the halftime lead of 28-24. Things got worse for the Streaks after that.

Richwoods freshman point guard Biana Ward then put on a clinic, scoring seven points and making some nifty passes to Stephanie Lovingood and Megan McCann and the Knights exploded to a 48-32 lead.

"We had to pull together at that point," said Bicego. "We realized that one person couldn’t do it all if we were going to win this game."

"We just needed to run our offense," said Dennison. "We just needed to keep our composure and play the way we can."

"We had shot the ball so poorly in the second and third quarter that it was hard to get any momentum at all," said Massey. " I think we then got frustrated and panicked offensively, we just started taking quick shots and dug ourselves into a hole. When we became a littler more disciplined offensively, we scored and that allowed us to set up some things in terms of defensive pressure."

The Streaks went on a mini-run of 8-2 to cut the lead to 50-40 after three periods, thanks to a Bicego three-point shot, a Whitney Shepherd basket and another three by Dennison.

They kept shoveling dirt, as Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis would put it. A three-point play by LaToya Wright cut the lead to 54-52 and Stephan hit a pair of crucial free throws to tie the game at 56 with just 1:15 left.

The Knights then turned the ball over, Galesburg killed some clock and Jenna’s heroics were set up.

"Everyone kept this team in the game," said Dennison, downplaying her three-point shooting which brought her close to the single-game Streaks record of eight by Stefanie Mitchell. "Jenna did a great job of running our offense. Brenna Saline and Claire Anderson played good defense on Ward. They kept her contained. Our post players keep battling inside."

Dennison’s gutsy performance brought her close to the single-game record for three-point baskets, which was set in 1995 when Stefanie Mitchell connected on eight.

"This was a big game for us," added Bicego. "Richwoods is a very good team."

Jenna’s right but consider this.

It didn’t matter where the Knights were ranked— either by sportswriters in the state or by the staff of the Journal-Star.

What’s big is that the Streaks got back to back wins against Peoria Central and Richwoods and when it comes time to seed teams in the Sectional, that’s huge— especially if Galesburg gets funneled into the Peoria Complex.

And that’s a whole lot more important than a trophy.