NORMAL -- Now that's more like it.
OK, so the Bartlett girls basketball team came to Redbird Arena this weekend with every intention of winning the Class 4A state championship.
But let's face it. The Whitney Young team the Hawks lost to in Friday night's semifinals might just go down as one of the best teams in Illinois girls basketball history. Hard to argue with 34-0 and a No. 2 national ranking.
So what the Hawks had to do Saturday was regroup for the third place game against Loyola, which at first glance looked far from imposing, with only one 6-footer and that one being a freshman.
The Ramblers gave Bartlett all the Hawks could handle, but in the end the Hawks got monster efforts from their seniors down the stretch and prevailed 61-59 in overtime in one of the best "consolation" games you'll ever see.
With all due respect to a hard-playing and well-coached Loyola team, this was the way Bartlett expected to send its eight seniors into graduation -- with a win.
It didn't come without some pain, though. First off, much of that pain was in the sinuses as many of the Bartlett players had to fight through bad colds this weekend, with senior point guard Janessa Baker taking the blame for being the first to get sick and then passing it on to many of her teammates.
Then came the pain of leading scorer Haley Videckis picking up two fouls early and going through a scoreless first half, only to come back and knock down 15 points in the second half, each of them critical to Bartlett coming from behind and eventually taking a lead.
"It was my last game and you just have to fight through it," said Videckis, who will head to Indiana this fall after scoring 1,350 points in her Bartlett career.
"I'm so thankful for this group of girls. They're all incredible and have great positive attitudes. My dream has been to be here playing at ISU."
While Videckis led the Hawks in scoring and was the "marquee" player on this 32-2 team, the Hawks don't bring home state hardware without the other seven seniors. Kristin Conniff, still undecided on a college choice, returned to her Dundee-Crown Christmas type of game Saturday night, scoring a game-high 21 points and knocking down the biggest 3-pointer of her life to tie the game with 10 seconds left in regulation, the last of her 1,233 career points.
Baker made the Hawks go. Most of the time she was a blur, driving past opposing defenders like they were statues.
Call Katie Gutzwiller the unsung hero. Consistent night in and night out, she was another player Bartlett couldn't have been 32-2 without.
And Lisa Palmer. My gosh, Lisa Palmer. What a monster game Saturday, one of many this season. Wisconsin-Whitewater is getting a real diamond in the rough with this one.
Don't forget about the huge free throw Nicole Gobbo sank in the overtime or all the steals, great passes and energy she brought to the floor all season, just like she will in her soccer career at NIU.
Same with Ashley Johnson, who always had a smile on her face, and was exceptionally instrumental off the bench in many games since November.
Natalia Grodzki may have not seen a lot of floor action during the season but not a week went by where Hawks' coach Denise Sarna didn't mention the contributions the athletic Grodzki made in practice.
"Each and every one has their own thing," Sarna said. "They each added to our team strength. We might not have five all-star kids but our strength was in playing together."
They had people to play for, too. Night in and night out, whether it was in Bartlett or Normal, the Hawks had incredible fan support from students to parents to friends of the program.
"We've had a great following from our community and these kids wanted to play for their town. I'm proud of that," Sarna said. "They just refused to lose. They're one big family and a great group of young ladies that I'll really really miss."
So while they may not be coming home with the big piece of hardware as they wanted, the Hawks are one of only two Class 4A teams to win their last game of the season -- something they dedicated themselves to after Friday's loss.
"Even though it's not a championship, only two teams get to end with a win," Palmer said. "This is a great way to finish."
Sarna spoke often this season of savoring every moment because you never knew when it was going to be over.
Now, everyone associated with this Bartlett team can savor the moment for a long time to come.