Herald Staff Report
The Clinton Herald
---- — NORMAL, Ill. — It took 37 years, but Don Robinson finally has made it to the big dance in girls basketball.
One of the most successful coaches of any sport in the area, Robinson has guided the Prophetstown program to a 673-318 record. Included have been 16 20-win seasons and 14 regional titles. His win total ranks as the fourth best for any coach at one school in Illinois history.
But, the Prophets always seemed to find a road block when they tried to earn a trip downstate.
The past two years, their path took them up against Freeport Aquin in the sectional tournament. Each time, Aquin won a hard-fought battle, then went on to win the state Class 1A state title. The year before that they were derailed by River Ridge, which finished second in the state.
But this year, led by a team full of juniors, Prophetstown finally has made it to the show.
The Prophets take a 30-2 record into tonight’s 8:15 Class 2A semifinal against IC Catholic of Elmhurst, Ill., in Illinois State’s Redbird Arena.
Prophetstown, riding a 23-game winning streak since a loss to the top-ranked team in Class 1A, Annawan, demonstrates the epitome of team play.
Juniors Corrie Reiley and Clare Kramer — at 5-foot-8 the tallest Prophet — are the only players who average more than 10 points a game, and they barely make it at 10.7 and 10.6, respectively. Another junior, Heather Strike, averages 9.1, with Karlie Stafford, the lone senior starter, just behind her at 8.6.
All four of those players have led the Prophets in scoring at least three times, led by Kramer (11) and Reiley (10), but two reserves, senior Kaeli Kovarik and junior Kassi Henrekin, also have scored team highs this season. Strike has the highest-scoring game (25 points), followed by Reiley (22).
There’s not just balance on offense, though, team defense is one of the group’s trademarks. They have held 21 opponents below 40 points, and three others scored either 40 or 41.
Like Prophetstown, IC Catholic is making its first trip to the state tournament. The Lady Knights (25-6) are riding a 16-game winning streak that began with a 50-39 win against Aurora Christian, which lost 62-26 in the sectional semifinal to Byron, which Prophetstown beat 55-53 for the sectional crown.
The similarities don’t end there, though.
IC Catholic has held 22 opponents below 40 points, including seven in a row since a 50-49 win against Aurora Christian.
And the Lady Knights spread out their scoring, as well. No one averages in double digits, though seniors Grace Vitek (9.9) and Rory Manion (9.4) aren’t far off.
IC Catholic does have something Prophetstown doesn’t, though: size. Both Manion and Vitek stand 5-11, and two reserves clear the 6-foot barrier.