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Sunday, March 6, 2011

RM Article on Season

As Galesburg High School girls basketball coach Evan Massey sat in Redbird Arena Saturday afternoon to watch senior Jessica Howard be introduced as a first-team all-state member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association, he couldn’t help but wish Howard was in her Silver Streaks uniform with the rest of her teammates.
With so many open seats, he couldn’t help but wonder how many of Galesburg’s faithful fans would have made the trip to Normal to pack the arena. And as Hillcrest — the team who beat Galesburg in the supersectional round 77-70 — took to the court to compete for the Class 3A championship, Massey couldn’t help but be a tad envious.
“The way you have to look at it as you only get one chance. We had our chance and we made a good run, it just didn’t turn out the way we wanted,” said Massey. “Every loss in the tournament is tough, but when you make it as far as we did, you would just like to have the opportunity to see how you would have stacked up and just experience how our community would have come out and supported us. You know Galesburg would have changed the whole atmosphere here.”
Yes, the Streaks came up a few wins short of their ultimate goal, but the 2010-2011 can hardly be viewed as a disappointment. In its second year in The System, Galesburg set all kinds of state records, often breaking their own. Illinois state records the Streaks now stand atop include most 3s attempted in a season (1476), 3s made in a season (397), 3s attempted in a game (72) and 3s made in a game (22). They also now hold two national records for most 3-pointers attempted in a season and most 3s made in a season.
Howard also set an individual state record, making 139 3s in a season, beating the previous record by one.
And while the Streaks and their fans enjoy the 3-ball, it was team accomplishments — 28 wins and a trip to the Elite 8 — that truly stands out.
“Because the 3s are a such a big part of what we do, I think the girls really take pride in all those records,” Massey said. “But that tournament run was definitely the highlight of the season.”
The Streaks looked so comfortable in The System late in the season, it’s hard to believe that Massey was beginning to wonder whether or not the change was the right decision earlier in the year. After Galesburg struggled through the first year of The System, finishing 17-14 overall and 3-7 in the Western Big 6, the team lost two of its first three games to start the 2010-2011 season, leaving Massey and his staff searching for answers.
“When things aren’t going well,” said Massey. “it doesn’t matter what style your are running, the easy thing in coaching is to change the x’s and o’s, rather than working on execution. For the first month of the season, I think I spent a lot of energy trying to change things, then around Christmas we were completely sold on what we were doing and we were able to focus on the execution a lot more.”
It paid off as the Streaks tore through the Charleston Holiday Tournament, winning the championship, while beginning a stretch that saw the Streaks win 13 games in a row and 17-of-18.
Galesburg hit its first major roadblock, losing back-to-back games to Morton and Rock Island, but responded with another winning streak, this time to six, but in its biggest regular season game, the Streaks stalled, losing to rival Moline by nearly 30 points with the WB6 title on the line.
The loss was visibly devastating for the Galesburg players, and even though they had bounced back several times before, one had to wonder how the Streaks would respond just a few days later in regional play.
The answer? Quite well. Galesburg was able to emerge from a loaded Geneseo Regional with four 20-win teams to earn its first regional title in five years. They followed that up by blowing out Ottawa Township in the Metamora Sectional semifinals, before taking the sectional title in convincing fashion over powerhouse Richwoods.
That run led the Streaks all the way to the Pontiac Supersectional, where they finished their season in thrilling fashion, falling just one game short of reaching the state tournament.
“They were a group that really had a combination of loyalty to each other and also were very responsive to us as coaches,” Massey said. “They believed in us and in what we were doing so much that when things didn’t go our way during the season, they were never shook up. They just kept working hard and stayed humble and as a result, turned into a very good team.”
One of the major reason the Streaks were so well grounded was due to their senior leadership. Howard, Tai Peachey, Jamie Johnson, Mickey Rodriguez and Megan Young proved to be the backbone of the team, leading by example both on the court and off it — starting with the first workout almost 12 months earlier.
“They contributed a lot things to make this team successful,” said Massey. “They were extremely unselfish, which allowed the team to develop the chemistry they had. I never had a group that was more willing to invest the time and put in the work in the offseason like they did. I can’t tell you the number of text and calls I would get from them, asking if they could get into the gym and shoot. In terms of work, they are the most impressive group of seniors I have ever coached.”
Now that those five seniors are gone, Massey said he hopes that their work ethic and dedication will wear off on underclassmen like Jessica Lieber and Sadee Hamilton who will look to take over and lead a Silver Streaks team that returns a wealth of experience.
“Right now we have eight girls that played when the game was on the line and the regional, sectional and supersectional level,” Massey said. “Now it’s time to see if those kids are excited for the opportunity to play in The System again and put in the work to get better, or look at is as well, everyone is going to play so I don’t need to work as hard. Honestly, that’s how we will decide if we continue with The System. I think that it is in the best interest for us to continue that style of play, but it only works if the kids are excited about it. I’m hopeful that this group is.”

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