NORMAL, Ill. — With the game on the line, Annawan’s Jayde VanHyfte took over in Friday's Class 1A state semifinal at Redbird Arena.
Whether it was getting a rebound on the defensive end and dribbling the length of the court — knee brace and all — for a layup or finding teammate Jordyn Sierens all alone with a pass from just inside half court to put Annawan up by four with 1:06 left, VanHyfte was not going to let Annawan lose.
She even caught a long over-the-shoulder pass and went in for a layup to break a press.
The result wasn’t just 29 points and 19 rebounds for the unanimous AP first-team all-stater. It’s far bigger than that. Annawan is returning to the state championship game Saturday at 1 p.m. after its 51-42 win over a scrappy Elgin Harvest Christian Academy team that saw its 24-game win streak snapped. The Bravettes, who won the title in 2014, will face Mendon Unity, which rallied in the second half for a 42-34 win over Calhoun.
“It means the world to me,” said VanHyfte, only a junior, whose torn ACL late in the season last year was the main reason Annawan didn’t get to state with a very good team. “It was very hard with my injury. I knew I just had to give it my all, and that’s what I did.”
She sure did. VanHyfte, an Arizona State commit, had 10 points and five rebounds in the fourth quarter besides making her presence felt constantly on defense.
The Bravettes led from late in the first quarter until early in the fourth, but Harvest Christian had momentum after it tied the score 39-39 on a layup by Gracie Ozburn with 4:02 left in the game. Sierens swished her second free throw after air-balling her first foul shot for a 40-39 Annawan lead with 3:40 remaining.
Then VanHyfte took over. She scored eight of her team’s last 11 points and assisted on Sierens’ bucket underneath that put the Bravettes in command up 46-42 with 1:06 left. Included in her eight final points were four straight foul shots down the stretch to ice it before exiting in the final seconds to a well-deserved ovation.
“Kind of what we are used to seeing,” said coach Jason Burkiewicz. “She’s an outstanding rebounder, outstanding scorer, and her speed is unmatched. She’s stepped up for us during the fourth quarter throughout this run.
“Sometimes we talk about … we don’t have to get it too complicated,” he added. “Just use your good athletes the way they are built to run.”
Annawan got seven points from Kaley Jackson, who played a solid all-around game and also contributed 11 rebounds to the Bravettes' 51-39 edge on the boards. Randall Reese also scored seven points and Sierens had six, including a 3 that put the Bravettes back on top early in the fourth quarter after Isamar Garcia’s two straight 3s had given the Lions a brief 34-32 lead.
But after four straight points from VanHyfte, the Lions tied it up at 39. But their emotions may have gotten the best of them at that point, their players said after the game.
“Once we tied it in the fourth, we felt like we could take this (game),” said Garcia, who came off the bench to score 13 points, 11 in the second half. “After tying it up, we just got emotional and let it slip.”
Harvest Christian coach Rich DeTamble praised VanHyfte a bit.
“She’s quick, she’s fast, she’s good,” he said. “Understand we lost to this team with her and her sister by 45 points last year, and we had the lead on them in the fourth quarter (Friday). It’s an indication of how far we have come.”