|Surveying the local girls' basketball landscape Thursday night, and looking ahead to the final frantic weeks of the best Western Big 6 Conference race in years, Rock Island coach Thad Hoover forwarded a history-making thought. |
"What about a four-way tie?'' Hoover said after the hosting Rocks edged Galesburg, 51-48, to take a half-game lead on the Streaks, preseason favorite United Township and three-time defending champ Moline.
That seems unlikely, with Galesburg (18-5, 5-2 Big 6) still to host both UT (16-8, 5-2 Big 6) and Moline (13-11, 5-2 Big 6).
Rocky (15-5, 6-2 Big 6) also has to host Moline next week before concluding conference action a week early at winless basement-dweller Quincy.
Moline and UT also meet in between their respective trips to the 'Burg. Both also won Thursday games.
A three-way tie last happened in 1991, but a four-way share would be a first.
"But you never know,'' cautioned his daughter, Rocky senior Whitney Hoover. "It's been that type of year.
"It's not just Moline or Galesburg anymore. It's everybody and we're all even and we all want it.''
The Rocks drove home that desire Thursday in a battle between state-and-locally ranked teams.
Rocky rebounded from last week's 18-point home loss to UT by avenging a seven-point December setback at Galesburg.
The fifth-ranked team locally did so with a defense that limited Illinois 3A's seventh-rated squad to 6-for-43 shooting from its speciality, behind the 3-point line.
"It was a huge game. We had to win,'' Rock Island's Sarita Goldsmith said after pulling down a game-high 13 rebounds to go with a team-leading 12 points. "Now we have to win every game left in the conference.''
The Rocks roared out to an early seven-point lead, but built that edge to as many as 13 points in the third quarter, limiting the Streaks to 1-for-14 shooting in the period.
Rocky still led by 13 early in the fourth quarter before Galesburg mounted a comeback.
With Rocky clinging to a 49-46 lead, Whitney Hoover needed to hit two free throws with 9.8 seconds remaining to stop the rally.
All-Big 6 forward Jessica Howard scored a game-high 13 points to pace the Streaks. Tai Peachey added 10 rebounds, for a 42-all stalemate between the teams.
"I wasn't even looking at the scoreboard,'' Whitney Hoover said. "I was just thinking this was our game to win. We needed this or we thought we'd be out of the conference race.''
Instead, the Rocks are now playing Geneseo Saturday for the top seed in the upcoming Geneseo-hosted 3A regional.
The Rocks and Geneseo are both receiving votes in the latest Illinois Associated Press 3A poll, and each are Top 10 in the local media rankings like Galesburg.
"We just have to worry about the next game,'' Coach Hoover said. "The conference will take care of itself if we win.
"Just when the media starts annointing a team, and says it will be this team now, all the pressure is on their shoulders and the target is on their back. It's just too tough this season. A lot of coaches thought it might take 7-3 or 8-2, and be a two or three-way tie, and I don't think anything has changed.''