|It had been a long time since Rock Island girls' basketball coach Thad Hoover had danced.|
It had been even longer since the Rocks had won a Western Big 6 Conference girls' basketball championship.
With Rocky's 50-37 home win over Quincy on Thursday night, they now have their first title since 1991, clinching a share of the crown with United Township, both with 7-3 records.
And the big crowd on hand to celebrate Rocky history got to see Hoover dance, his players circled around him.
"Um, it wasn't that good. I'll give him a 3," said RI senior Rayven Morrow. "It was nice to see him dance though."
That's because a Hoover dance meant a Rocky title.
"We told the kids that we would do just about anything for a win, so dancing's not so bad," Hoover said after the Blue Devils, 0-10 in the WB6, gave the Rocks quite a scare for over three quarters.
With 6½ minutes left to play, it looked as if Quincy had most of the moves and were playing all of the right notes. A basket in the paint, where the Blue Devils controlled much of the game, cut the Rocks' lead to 31-28.
That is when the Rocks decided this was their dance.
"We finally realized what we were fighting for," said Morrow, who finished with 10 rebounds, half of that in the fourth quarter.
RI junior Shavonne Brewer took that a two-step further.
"We were down in the locker room at halftime," she said, as Quincy led 16-12 and the Rocks were coming off just a three-point second quarter. "I sat there and said to myself, I had to do more. In the second half, I took every open shot I had."
That translated to six shots. And six baskets. Half of those were 3-pointers. It accounted for 15 of Brewer's game-high 20 points.
It also led to the rest of the Rocks clicking. Point guard Raquel Garcia had four of her game-high five assists in the fourth. Center Sarita Goldsmith had seven of her 11 points in the fourth.
To show how focused the Rocks were on grabbing that WB6 crown that was that close, consider this: the Blue Devils were at one time 4-of-5 from the floor in the fourth – and were losing ground to the Rocks.
"It's been that similar story the last few games," Quincy coach Greg Altmix said. "We have to develop a winner's mentality. We played the second half like we had question marks in our heads."
Brewer says the fact that Quincy, at 8-14, went winless in the WB6, is a testament to the toughness of the conference.
"That's not a bad team at all," she said. "Everyone was telling us how the conference was ours and that we should win easily since they were 0-9. But none of what happened before matters; this time is what matters. How well they played shows how tough the conference is."
Now the Rocks can change their focus, taking their first conference championship in 21 years into the regional along with a No. 1 seed back at their own gym.
The question, of course, is whether Hoover has enough dance in him, just in case.
"I'm done dancing," he declared with a 10-rated smile.
Don't take that as gospel, though. If the Rocks emerge from what could be the toughest regional in the state next week at home, it just might be the impetus to give the Rocks a different drummer for their coach's high-stepping.