By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
The Rockford Auburn Knights went down state to Peoria, but could not reach their ultimate goal. But they did come away with a pretty good consolation prize.
A night after losing in the semifinals to Proviso East for the second time in the season, Auburn picked themselves up and overwhelmed Bloom Township on their way to a 57-46 victory to take third place in the IHSA Class 4A tournament.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome,” Auburn Head Coach Bryan Ott said. “I’m proud of the way they responded and the way they played coming off a tough loss. Only two teams in any class can finish with a win, and thankfully we were able to do that.”
The Knights jumped on Bloom early in the game. LaMark Foote scored 5 quick points in the first quarter, and Fred Van Vleet added 6 as Auburn built up a 13-4 lead after one quarter.
Van Vleet, as he has done often, took over from there. The senior guard, in his final high school game, poured in 16 more points on his way to 22 total points.
“The run we’ve had with him the last two years with him as our leader has been special,” Ott said.
It was a far cry from the semifinals against Proviso, when the Knights shot 26 percent from the field and 12 percent from the free-throw line in the first half, and finished with 24 turnovers in a 55-45 loss.
While Auburn missed several open looks and close shots against Proviso, they were ready to knock those shots down against Bloom.
“The chances we did have to connect, we connected on them,” Foote, who finished with 13 points, said. “And that made a big difference from (the semifinals).”
Ott agreed, adding that picking themselves up for the second time in the season after a loss to Proviso was impressive.
“We did not feel like we played anywhere close to our best,” he said. “For us to rachet it up and get the win in that fashion was very important for us.”
The Knights finished 32-3 on the season.
Van Vleet said after the game that he will always remember the experience of taking his team down state and finishing with a win.
“These past four years have been the best years of my life, probably the hardest years of my life,” Van Vleet said. “It’s been special, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
From the March 21-27, 2012, issue