BY CHAD DARE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — DANVILLE — Sometimes trying to live up to the expectations of others is very difficult.
A year ago, the Bismarck-Henning girls basketball team felt that pressure and the Blue Devils wound up taking third in the Vermilion County Tournament, snapping the school's five-year run of championships.
This season, those expectations were placed on the heads of the Armstrong-Potomac Trojans, who not only claimed last year's title but they also snapped Bismarck-Henning 16-game winning streak in the County Tournament.
On Friday, Bismarck-Henning reclaimed its spot on the top of the Vermilion County Tournament with a 41-36 victory over Armstrong-Potomac at the David S. Palmer Arena.
"To be honest, this means the world to us,'' said Bismarck-Henning senior Addie Voyles, who had nine points, four rebounds and three assists. "Everyone doubted us after last year. We didn't have a very good record and we finished third in this tournament.
"This year, we wanted to prove everyone wrong about us. I can't thank our fans, this team and our coaches enough. It's a really good feeling, winning the County Tournament title again.''
Bismarck-Henning junior Brooke Walsh, who scored a team-high 13 points, admitted not being in the championship game last year "broke our hearts.''
"Our main focus this week was getting the County title back to Bismarck,'' she said, sporting a black eye from Wednesday's win over Salt Fork. "The biggest thing tonight was that we not only played with our hearts, but also with our heads.''
It was that combination of effort and intelligent play that allowed the Blue Devils (16-8) to build a 25-21 lead at halftime. Walsh, who had 10 of her team-high 13 in the second quarter, was 5-for-5 from the field in the second quarter and her teammates were 3-for-4 as the Blue Devils shot a remarkable 88.9 percent in that second quarter.
"It was wide open in the middle of their zone because they were focused on the outside shooters with Voyles and (Maddie) Winkler,'' Walsh said. "That opened it up for my shots in that quarter.''
And after Walsh had hit three of her five shots in the quarters, that's when Voyles made the first of her three 3-pointers in the contest but it was her last 3-pointer in the third quarter that gave the Blue Devils a lead they would never relinquish.
"It was all about confidence,'' Voyles said. "We just needed to look inside when it was there. Brooke did her job in there and that opened things up on the outside.''
And while the offensive execution was good for the Blue Devils, both Voyles and Bismarck-Henning coach Mike Stephens felt the real key was the defensive end.
"Offense wins games, but defense wins championship,'' said Voyles.
And Stephens pointed out that her comments are proof positive of her transformation during the tournament.
"This whole tournament, Addie Voyles has really become a more complete player, and not just a shooter,'' Stephens said.
But, the biggest role on the defensive end for the Blue Devils came from senior Maddie Winkler, who held Armstrong-Potomac senior Morgan Zindars to just four second-half points on 1-of-3 shooting. Zindars, who had a game-high 16, had 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the first half for the Trojans (16-5).
"The key was Winkler in the second half,'' Stephens said. "Maddie kind of struggled in first half at both ends of the court, but she came back and was huge, both guarding Zindars and running the show for us on offense.''
Zindars wasn't the only player that was kept from scoring in the second half for Armstrong-Potomac.
The Trojans managed just 15 second-half points as they were 4-of-23 from the field in the final 16 minutes.
"It's hard to score points against this team,'' Armstrong-Potomac coach Nick Hipsher said. "We really missed some opportunities that we needed to take advantage of.
"We just have to knock some shots down. We've played them three times this year (Bismarck-Henning has won twice). They are good defensive team and we have to shoot a little better.''
Hipsher pointed out that Armstrong-Potomac also held Bismarck-Henning to just 16 second-half points, but the damage had been done with the Blue Devils 19-point second quarter.
"The second quarter really hurt, we had some miscues on some communication,'' he said. "Defensively, we did a better job in the second half.''
Armstrong-Potomac was seeking its third Vermilion County Championship on Friday.
"It was one of our goals for this season,'' Hipsher said. "We still have a conference title and a regional title to play for this season.''
Zindars was the only Trojan to score in double figures with 16 points. Johanna Bruens finished with eight points and seven rebounds.
Joining Walsh in double figures for Bismarck-Henning was Lindsey Andrews with 10 points, including make 3-of-4 at the free-throw line in the final minutes.
The Vermilion County All-Tournament Team, featured Walsh, Andrews and Voyles from Bismarck-Henning; Zindars, Rachel Miles and Makenzie Vinson from Armstrong-Potomac, along with Oakwood's Delaney Durst and Sadie Edwards, Jenny Kimbro from Salt Fork and senior Brittany Hay from Georgetown-Ridge Farm.
The County Tournament wraps up today with the championship game in the boys tournament. Bismarck-Henning plays Westville at 8 p.m. Today's action begins with Oakwood against Georgetown-Ridge Farm at 5 p.m., followed by the third-place game between Hoopeston Area and Salt Fork.