Going into the last regional championship of her career, Huntley senior Haley Ream didn’t put herself first.
The guard, who has played in three consecutive regional finals, wanted to share the moment she had when the team won it last in 2011.
“I wanted to make everyone else feel how I felt when I played as a sophomore,” she said. “It’s a great feeling to win a regional so I wanted the whole team to feel like that.”
The third-seed Red Raiders (23-6) got that feeling after routing the first-seeded Lady Blue Thunder (22-8) 60-41 in the Belvidere North Regional Championship on Thursday night. The key to Huntley’s victory against the hosting Belvidere was just what Haley was thinking: selflessness.
“[We had] great balance tonight,” said Huntley head coach Steve Raethz. “When we have multiple players scoring like that, we are a very good basketball team.”
After Huntley lead Belvidere 33-20 at the half behind 18 points from junior forward Sam Andrews, the rest of the team opened up after Andrews scored just three of 27 second half points. The Raiders did so through sharp ball movement and pacing, with Ali Andrews (14 points), Ream (12), and Bethany Zornow (11) each finishing with more than 10 points scored.
“Haley Ream and Bethany Zornow, that was huge for us for them to get in double-figures tonight,” Raethz said. “I thought that Haley and Bethany really stepped up in the second half and gave us some buckets in crucial seconds when we needed them to either maintain the lead or extend the lead.”
Huntley’s consistent defense also stepped up as it didn’t stutter after watching Belvidere’s 72-38 stomping of Rockford East in the regional semifinals on Tuesday night. Although Ream is Huntley’s lone senior starter, its youth was poised when Belvidere built momentum throughout the game.
“[When] they made runs at us, we did a great job at either stopping their run or creating a run of our own with either a bucket or coming up with a stop defensively,” said Raethz. “It’s great to see at this junction of the season our kids do that and really show some resiliency in moments that they were making a run at us.”
Huntley’s next challenge comes at the Rockford East Sectional Semifinals against Harlem. Huntley’s regional championship was its second in three years and sixth since 2004.
“It’s been a goal of ours all season long and it’s a great goal for us to accomplish,” Raethz said. “Now it’s on to sectionals.”
Photos by Mike Krebs/The Voice