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Harvest Christian's Stuart Wolff (left) and Hinckley-Big Rock's Mitch Ruh fight for a rebound Wednesday in Elgin. | Michael R. Schmidt ~ For Sun-Times Media
When Plan A fails, it’s always good to have a viable Plan B.
Top-seeded Hinckley-Big Rock turned from one press to another after the first one failed, and put enough pressure on Harvest Christian on Wednesday in the Class 1A Westminster Christian Regional semifinals to come away with a 44-33 victory. It earned the Royals a rematch against 20-5 Mooseheart for the championship Friday in a game that has been moved from Westminster to Judson University to accommodate a larger crowd.
“The defense was not what we had planned at first,” Hinckley-Big Rock guard Bernie Conley said. “We figured a zone press would slow them up and they wouldn’t be able to break it as easy as they did. They came down 3-on-2 and 2-on-1 every time.”
So the Royals went to a man-to-man full-court press, denying the inbounds pass. It led to nine turnovers in the first 12 minutes of the game and helped Hinckley-Big Rock seize a 16-5 advantage. They needed the defensive dominance because the shots wouldn’t fall on the night, as a 13-for-48 effort from the field showed.
“We didn’t shoot the ball that well,” coach Bill Sambrookes said “Hopefully we get that figured out by Friday night because we’ll need it.
“Most of the night we got open looks. We got open threes, but they weren’t going in.”
The Royals (24-4) did get a couple big three-pointers when it mattered most. Leading 31-19 starting the fourth quarter, Hinckley-Big Rock went on a 10-1 run for a 41-20 edge that locked away the win. Andrew Klambauer hit a trey to start the run and Mitch Ruh had one to make it 40-20.
For most of the night, H-BR relied on Conley driving and getting to the line. The 5-foot-7 senior guard finished with a team-high 15 points, 10 coming from the foul line.
Harvest Christian (17-12), which had won a regional game for the first time Tuesday, suffered through 8-of-35 shooting from the field (23 percent) over the first three quarters to fall off the pace.
“When they get after you that tough on defense it’s hard,” Harvest Christian coach Jeff Boldog said. “Turnovers hurt us and they hit a couple threes that separated it.
“But the missed shots, that was us. They were short and we missed a lot. They were nervous bunnies. This was our first regional semifinal game and we just weren’t converting open shots.”
Harvest Christian had a team-high 10 points from Kyle Fritz and eight points from Dan Turpin, while Matt Borst had seven.
Despite not having anyone taller than 6-foot-3 in the starting lineup, H-BR beat Mooseheart and its 6-7, 6-10, 7-1 front line 58-51 in December. But the Royals know they’ll have to improve offensively to advance.
“We’re just as quick as they are,” Conley said. “We’ve got to get out in transition, get them running.”