NORMAL — Let there be no doubt that the dominant Okawville Rockets capped one of the more impressive seasons in Class 1A in recent years with a 56-35 state championship game victory over Christopher Bearcats Saturday.
Alayna Kraus scored 20+ (21) for the second straight day, asserting herself as arguably the best player in the class, with Bearcat forward Amiah Hargrove (19 points, 8 rebounds), making a claim as well for that distinction. Both play for the Bradley Beal Elite AAU program and are tight friends.
Okawville finished 34-4, each of their losses coming to substantially larger schools.
Numbers of Note:
-Okawville enrollment 175.5, Christopher enrollment 252
-Megan Rennegarbe scored 17 points on 7 of 8 shooting and had 5 rebounds.
-Okawville shot 11 of 22 in the first half and 23 of 44 (52.3%) for the game. They shot at least 50% in every quarter.
-The Rockets held the Bearcats to 15 of 41 shooting.
-Okawville’s defense was key, and the Rockets had a 27-22 rebound advantage.
-Okawville possessed the ball cleanly and turned it over just 5 times.
-The Rockets scored 36 points in the paint.
-Makayla Dejear and Jessica Gordon scored 7 points apiece.
-Briley Rhodes and Madisyn Wienstroer each had 4 assists apiece.
-McKenzie Jackson 7 rebounds for the Bearcats.
What Did They Say?
“We saw some people at a restaurant and we said ‘let’s all bring it back to the South,’” 1st-year Okawville coach and alum Haylee Bowers
“Our schedule is definitely a huge part of why we’re here… we played 3A and 4A, the best of the best,” – Bowers
“They had the ambition and the drive to get here and every time I walked into the locker room, they said ‘coach, we’re ready,’” – Bowers
“Me and Amiah, we’re tight. We play AAU together. We’ve known each other for a long time. We work out together,” – Alayna Kraus
”They’re the best team. (It wasn’t) close, by 21 points. They earned it. They deserved it by far. I’m glad to see two teams from the southern region of the state play in the big game,” Christopher coach Hayden Carter
“It’s not the outcome we wanted but super grateful for the opportunity,” – Amiah Hargrove
“I was so excited to play against her (Kraus) because this was the first time we played against each other in high school,” Hargrove
“The first week we came into practice, we had it in mind, we’re going to (get here),” – Briley Rhodes
“I’m emotional because it’s the last time I’m going to step on the floor with my best friends,” – Rhodes
Kraus scored 5 of first 8, including a strong take in transition over Hargrove for an 8-5 rockets lead with 2:57 left in the period.
Coming out of the timeout, Raelyn Obermeier drilled a 3-pointer, which Hargrove answered with an and-1 bucket.
Okawville led 13-8 after a quarter.
The Bearcats were in full-deny against Kraus, leaving Reagan Obermeier open for her second 3 for a 16-8 Rockets advantage.
Hargrove answered, as she does frequently, with a bucket on the other end.
The Rockets got a quick 4-point run from Megan Rennegarbe, who scored in transition for a 22-12 lead with 4:46 lead. Christopher called timeout to stem the tide. Rennegarbe already had 11 points on 5 of 5 shooting at that point.
Makayla Dejear scored with under 20 seconds remaining with a jumper around the free throw line. Then Kraus, who had scored her last bucket on a pick-pocket steal and layup, went up and over several defenders for a floater at the buzzer, much to the chagrin of the well-traveled Christopher fans who were seeking a charge call.
Amiah Hargrove picked up 3 fouls in the first half.
Okawville led 27-20 at the break.
Rennegarbe, already having a great game, benefitted from solid passing to score twice and stretch Okawville’s lead to 40-24. The Rockets lead 44-26 after three quarters.
The Rockets maintained control in the fourth.
Deejay knocked down a 3-pointer for only the second Bearcats 3-pointer of the game and Hargrove scored her 19th point, but with Christopher down 16, it was only a matter of time for the clock to go down to zero.
Briley Rhodes scored her first bucket from the field for an and-1 bucket with 1:10 to go, and before the free throw, coach Haylee Bowers got her subs in. After making the free throw, Rhodes went to the bench and received a heartfelt embrace from her first-year head coach, an Okawville alum herself.