ROCK FALLS – What can Brown do for you? If you’re the Winnebago girls basketball team, the answer is a lot.
And for Rock Falls, the inability to deal with Indians sophomore guard Miyah Brown proved to be too much to overcome.
Brown came up big when Winnebago needed it most, and lifted her team to a 56-51 overtime victory Friday night in the Class 2A Rock Falls Regional at Tabor Gym.
“They brought a lot of intensity, and we knew they weren’t going to quit or back down,” Rock Falls senior forward Elise Moeller said. “We weren’t going to, either, but sometimes the ball just wasn’t bouncing our way.”
It is the fifth consecutive regional title for Winnebago (21-10), and a highly satisfying one for longtime head coach Judy Krause. Her team was routed in Tabor Gym last season, and also dropped a 58-40 decision to the Rockets in Winnebago back on Dec. 6.
“We simply wanted to play a good basketball game, which we hadn’t done against Rock Falls lately,” Krause said.
The Indians turned the tide in large part because of Brown, who poured in 37 points on 13-for-21 shooting, and she also had five rebounds and four blocked shots.
“It’s great because I know they’re a great team,” Brown said. “We had to play all we had. We have this saying, ‘All it takes is all we got,’ and it really took all we got tonight. I know how aggressive they are. They’re a great overall team, and we had to play our best today.”
Rock Falls (26-7) led for the bulk of the game. Moeller scored her team’s first 11 points in racing out to an 11-4 lead in the first 3½ minutes, and a steal and layup at the first-quarter buzzer by Kylie Fischbach gave the Rockets a 15-8 lead.
Winnebago stayed within striking range throughout the game, though, and made one last push after Rock Falls had taken a 39-32 lead on a bucket from Karli Fischbach with 5:30 to go.
The Indians then pieced together a 7-0 run to tie it at 39-39 with 3:30 to play.
The Rockets’ last lead was at 42-39 following a three-point play by Kennedy Shaw with 3:15 to go.
Again, Winnebago had an answer. Brown hit two free throws and two buckets to give her team a 45-42 lead with 1:15 to go.
Abi Peyton missed a 3-pointer with 1 minute to go, but the Rockets got the ball back when Karli Fischbach tied up Winnebago’s Annika Bielskis with 25.6 seconds to go. That possession led to a game-tying 3-pointer by Karli Fischbach with 12 seconds to play.
Winnebago had the last possession, but didn’t make the most of it. Brown didn’t touch the ball, and Renee Rittmeyer ended up holding the ball about 25 feet away without attempting a shot.
In OT, Brown got her team off to a good start with a three-point play with 2:38 remaining, and three free throws made it 51-45 with 1:41 left. Rock Falls’ first three possessions in overtime were a turnover, an illegal screen, and a missed layup, and the Rockets never caught up.
Two free throws by Brown with 10 seconds to go were the game’s final points.
Brown scored 25 of her 37 points in the second half and overtime. In the fourth quarter and OT, she was 6-for-8 from the field and 9-for-10 from the free-throw line.
“I know sometimes I save it for the second half,” Brown said, “but I knew I had to give it all I had in the second if we were going to pull through. We got the ball in my hands and I did what I could, but it was a real team effort.”
“She’s a great player,” Krause said. “She’s come through for us all year long, so it’s not anything that unusual, different or outstanding, other than her usual outstanding self. She played a great game.”
Brown averaged about 16 points in the regular season. Rock Falls coach Eric Wolf noted he tried three different defenses to try and slow her down, none of which worked particularly well.
“I guess when you’re hot, you’re hot,” Wolf said. “Maybe we could have double-teamed her a little bit more. She’s a good ballplayer.
"Looking back at it now, maybe we could have done some things different, but give Winnebago credit. They got her the ball and she delivered. When you started seeing the ball go in the hole, any shot looks good to take.”
Moeller led Rock Falls with 17 points and seven rebounds, and Peyton finished with 13 points and five boards. Karli Fischbach had 11 points, Kylie Fischbach scored six, and Shaw added four. All of the Rockets' points were scored by the starting five.
2A Rock Falls Regional final
Winnebago 56, Rock Falls 51, OT
Star of the game: Miyah Brown, Winnebago, 37 pints, 5 rebounds, 4 blocks
Key performers: Elise Moeller, Rock Falls, 17 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals; Abi Peyton, Rock Falls, 13 points, 5 rebounds