Plucking the Ducks: Brown County overwhelms Havana to earn spot in Beardstown title game

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BEARDSTOWN, Ill. — Obviously, the victory itself was important for the Brown County girls basketball team.

The 50-29 win Wednesday night over Havana moved the Hornets into the finals of the 40th Lady Tiger Classic at Beardstown High School while improving their record to 14-1.

But of equal significance was how Brown County’s victory materialized.

The Hornets simply overwhelmed the Ducks — at both ends of the floor — during the final three quarters to turn what was expected to be a nailbiter into a runaway. Brown County is the No. 3 seed in the 24-team event. Havana (14-2) is the second seed.

“This was a quality win,” Brown coach Dave Phelps said. “We imposed our will.”

There was no arguing — or even questioning — Phelps’ assessment. In the words of longtime character actor Walter Brennan in the 1960s TV western “The Guns of Will Sonnett,” it was a case of “no brag, just fact.”

“We feel we can play with the best teams in the area,” said Phelps, whose club has rattled off 10 consecutive wins since a 63-58 loss in late November to Unity. 

Ironically, Brown County’s opponent in Thursday’s 7 p.m. championship game is none other than Unity (16-1), which dispatched Illini West in Wednesday’s other semifinal 50-35. Unity is the No. 1 seed at Beardstown, and like Brown County, is seeking its first Beardstown championship.

“We know Unity is a strong team, we’ve played them a lot over the years,” said Katey Flynn, Brown County’s 5-foot-10 senior guard who led the Hornets with 19 points.

Flynn said the Hornets are anxious for the rematch with Unity.

“We work well as a team,” she said. “I think we’re close right now to reaching our full potential.”

Brown County led 14-10 following a back-and-forth first quarter, but then outdistanced Havana 36-19 the rest of the way. In most of the middle two quarters, Brown County’s score doubled that of Havana’s.

Flynn triggered Brown County’s breakaway from her point guard position, where she contributed 10 first-half points and nine in the second half. 

“I just want to contribute wherever I can,” Flynn said. “I think the turning point was early in the second half when we came with a lot of energy and (started to pull away).”

Phelps agreed.

“In the first four minutes of the second half, we increased our lead from 10 points to 18 points or so,” he said. “We preach ball pressure, and we want teams to feel uncomfortable.”

Ashlee Markert, a 6-foot-1 sophomore center for Brown County, also enjoyed an impactful game with 15 rebounds, three blocked shots and eight points. Markert anchored Brown County’s 41-29 dominance on the boards.

Brown County’s Klare Flynn pocketed 11 points, with Gracie Hedden adding eight points and eight rebounds.

Taryn Wickman led Havana with 19 points, scoring eight in the final minutes after the outcome had been decided.

For Havana, it has been another successful run at Beardstown. The Ducks have won four championships and finished runner-up six times since 2003. Havana plays Illini West in Thursday’s 5:30 p.m. third-place game.

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