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Aurora Christian's Alyssa Andersen steals the ball from Seneca's Erin Hovious. | John Patsch~For Sun-Times Media
In Aurora Christian’s gym, there are banners for every sport in which the Eagles compete with a silver state of Illinois silhouette in the background and room for all of that program’s regional, sectional and state accomplishments.
At the beginning of this girls basketball season, third-year coach Jerry Tokars used the banner as motivation.
The girls basketball banner was blank.
“We didn’t promote it all the time, but they were aware of it,” Tokars said. “I pointed that out in day one at practice and said, ‘we’re going to change that.’ We referenced it every now and then, but we didn’t put a huge emphasis on it. But they know what’s going on. They read the paper and stuff.”
After the Eagles won their first regional crown Thursday in Wilmington over Seneca, the players immediately referenced the banner, proving that they knew what was going on all along.
“Every day, the motivation in practice was the blank board on the wall,” junior Alyssa Andersen said. “We wanted to get up on it.”
Well, the Eagles did just that. It earned them a berth in Monday’s 6 p.m. Class 2A Somonauk Sectional semifinal against Peru St. Bede.
Despite the fact that there is only one senior on the roster, Alex Hultine, Tokars bristled at the suggestion that perhaps this team arrived on the scene a year earlier than expected.
“We told them at the beginning of the year, we’re not waiting another year,” Tokars said. “They took it to heart. They pretty much met every goal we had.”
The list of accomplishments is impressive for the Eagles. They shared the Suburban Christian Gold title with a dramatic finishing kick. Every win they have moving forward establishes a program record, a mark which stands at 19 heading into Monday’s game. And they won that elusive first regional.
“Now we’ll see if it’s time to get some gravy,” Tokars said.
Aurora Christian can finally look ahead to St. Bede, something Tokars said they did not do before winning Thursday’s game.
“I have not seen St. Bede (in person),” Tokars said. “I was not going to talk about anybody beyond this game (Thursday). No way. Now we can start talking about that. Anything can happen in the postseason.”
Port Byron Riverside and Byron face off in the second semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Monday. The championship game will be Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Somonauk.
Class 1A Illinois Valley Sectional
In Class 1A, the seeds have held and Monday’s Class 1A Illinois Valley Community College Sectional semifinals will have a local flavor. Coming off a 46-45 overtime win over Indian Creek Saturday, Hinckley-Big Rock captured its seventh consecutive regional crown and will face Granville Putnam County at 6 p.m.
Then one of the most highly-anticipated games in the state in Class 1A will go down at 7:30 p.m., as Newark, winners of 23 straight games, takes on one of the state’s top teams, Annawan. The championship game will be Thursday at 7:30 p.m.