November loss refocuses Barrington, who is now headed to Final Four
Senior point guard Daniel Hong called it the turning point of the season.
So did Barrington senior forward Will Grudzinski.
After the Broncos knocked off No. 2-ranked Glenbrook South 52-50 in the Class 4A supersectional on Monday night before a sold-out crowd at Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights, Hong and Grudzinski were among several Broncos and coaches that pointed to a one-point buzzer-beater loss to Rockton Hononegah on Nov. 26 for lifting the team to another level in order to end the program's long state drought that dates back to the 1976-77 season. A week after losing 54-53 to Hononegah, the Broncos were handed a double-dose of heartbreak when Fremd recorded a 55-54 win on another buzzer-beater.
Two days after the Barrington girls basketball team set a new level of standard by finishing in second place in Class 4A in the program's first state appearance, the Broncos (27-4) joined the state party by advancing to the Final Four.
The Broncos held off a furious rally by the Titans (33-3) to advance to play Whitney Young on Friday at 2:30 p.m. in a state semifinal at the State Farm Center in Champaign.
"That (Hononegah) game really opened our eyes," Hong said. "From that day on, we really focused. Every day since then, we were focused and never looked back. In my opinion, I think you learn way more in a loss than a win. I'm really proud of how we responded."
The Broncos also responded with an inspired effort against the highly-ranked Titans.
Hong was instrumental in leading the Broncos to the state tournament, handling the Titans' pressure while deftly running the offense. He played solid defense on Glenbrook South senior point guard Cooper Noard, a Cornell recruit. Noard finished with 17 points, but scored just 7 in the second half.
Hong, who scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half, said he's been receiving interest from Division II and Division III schools and talking "to a few D-I schools.
"Cooper is a great player, and I have nothing respect for him," Hong said of Noard.
The 6-foot-6 Grudzinski, who came into the game averaging a team-high 19.7 points and 5.2 rebounds along with hitting a school-record 91 3-pointers, sparked the Broncos by draining 3 3s in a span of 2:36 in the second quarter to build a 25-15 lead.
Grudzinski, a Saint Louis recruit and repeat Mid-Suburban League Player of the Year, said the Broncos have been building for a state run since losing to Hononegah. Grudzinski let the game come to him, not forcing a shot in the first quarter before hitting his fiery spell in the second
"We wanted this win," Grudzinski said, while clutching the supersectional plaque. "I was locked in and we were all confident. This feels amazing, like a dream. It's all coming together, especially after losing our (third) game by a buzzer-beater. We were always there for each other, worked hard for each other every day. We needed that loss. It prepared us for the season and brought us all together. I'm happy we are going to state."