Subject Line (article title)
Send to (required)E-mail
Send from (required)E-mail
The old saying tells us it's better to be lucky than good.
But we all know it's best to be lucky and good.
And if that's what the Bartlett girls basketball team has been this season, it's just fine with Hawks' coach Denise Sarna.
"Some coaches say 'I don't need luck.' I'll take luck any day," Sarna says. "To get to this point you have to have sone luck."
This point for the Hawks is Monday's Class 4A Elgin supersectional against DeKalb at Chesbrough Field House, where they hope to take the next step on the state tournament trail, and that would be a trip to Redbird Arena in Normal next weekend for the state finals.
It was no secret coming into the season that Bartlett would be good again. There were some holes to fill with the graduation of Division I recruits Jacki Gulczynski and Christina Carlson, but the combination Sarna had coming back was, on paper, one of the best in the state. It was going to be a team heavy with experienced seniors who had been a big part of teams that went 28-2 when they were juniors and 21-10 as sophomores, when they all played on the varsity.
But they hadn't done some of the things the wanted to do -- like win a Dundee-Crown Christmas title, or a sectional crown.
They were the defending Upstate Eight Valley champs and they had won two straight regionals, so it wasn't like they were going to fly under the radar, as much as Sarna may have hoped for that.
It didn't take long for people to realize this had the makings of a special season for the Hawks. They won the Naperville Central/Benet Tip-Off Tournament at Thanksgiving, beating the two host schools handily (Naperville Central went on to share the DuPage Valley title and Benet just lost to Bolingrbook in a sectional final.)
Those five impressive wins vaulted the Hawks to the No. 1 spot in the Daily Herald Top 20, a place they remain today.
UEC Valley wars were next, One by one they came to Bartlett for the first round -- the top teams in the division, as in Metea Valley, Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley. And one by one Bartlett disposed of them, by 16, 13 and 18 points respectively.
If there was one problem brewing it was the Hawks were winning too easily and not being pushed to see if they could win a close game.
"You try to set up situations in practice and simulate being down but it's not the same," Sarna said. "You don't want to be disrespectful to opponents but many times you go through the motions. That's been a hard thing."
Closer games came at Dundee-Crown. The Hawks had to work harder to beat D-C, Buffalo Grove, Fremd and New Trier. But they did it and won the prestigious Charger Classic for the first time.
Then it was back on cruise control until the first bump in the road finally came. With senior point guard Janessa Baker out with an ankle injury, after 22 straight wins, Bartlett finally stumbled, losing 58-45 at Waubonsie Valley.
"We didn't react very well to being down and we've been working on it ever since," Sarna said. "The loss wasn't totally a bad thing. It's been a motivator to not let it happen again."
And it hasn't. Eight straight wins later, Bartlett is still playing basketball and is one of only eight Class 4A teams in the state who can say that today.
The postseason hasn't been easy, but it's not supposed to be. Bartlett had to face two teams -- Schaumburg in the regional final and West Chicago in the sectional semifinal -- that it had beaten by a combined 54 points in back-to-back nonconference games on the road just before Christmas. Their scoring leader, senior Haley Videckis, suffered a gash on her hairline late in the first half against Schaumburg that would later take 12 stitches to close. The Hawks persevered and won by 18. Against West Chicago, Bartlett learned a valuable lesson about finishing. They had the Wildcats down by 15 and nearly had to bring out the defibrillator for their fans before hanging on to win by 6.
A little more adversity in the sectional title game against Wheaton Warrenville South -- having to play from behind late. But unlike in the loss to Waubonsie Valley when they let a close game in the second half turn into a 15-point loss, this time Bartlett kept its cool, played through the game's rough moments then got it to overtime, where Videckis took over and Bartlett prevailed 54-51 to win its first sectional title since 2005, the year the Hawks were second in the state in Class AA.
So 31 games since the beginning, here the Hawks stand, at the threshold of a trip to state. They've been good, and they've had some luck. They've stayed relatively injury free, with Baker's 4-game absence with the ankle the only four games any of the five starters have missed. The ball bounced their way a couple times in the sectional games where, if it didn't, the Hawks could be watching from the stands Monday night.
"I've been on the other side and 30-1 is much nicer," Sarna says. "This is a great group of kids. You go through a lot during the course of a season. Janessa worked really hard to get back. Lisa Palmer took a hard knee to the quad and played through it. And Haley is Haley. Tough, tough kid. They play so well together as a team. When we're working on all cylinders and we move the ball and play team defense ... we're a good team."
Sarna has been imploring her team all season to savor the moment because you never know when it's going to be over.
While that is so true in sports, something tells me Bartlett's moment isn't going to be over until the Hawks are bringing some state hardware home next weekend.