Conley helps Hinckley-Big Rock advance
Fueled by another stellar Bernie Conley performance, Hinckley-Big Rock still had to hang on to reach Friday’s championship of the Royals’ own Class 1A Sectional.
Despite playing a man down for virtually 64 of 80 minutes, Genoa-Kingston fought back to within a goal to make the last seven minutes a little nerve-racking for the host Royals in a 3-2 win.
Hinckley-Big Rock (13-8-3), which avenged two regular-season losses to Little Ten Conference rival Somonauk to claim the regional title, now has to avoid the same fate on Friday when another LTC foe, Earlville-Leland, will be the one looking for revenge. While the Red Raiders lost to H-BR 3-2 and 4-0, the E-L coop brings a 15-10 mark into the title match after winning Tuesday’s early semifinal 4-1 over Wilmington.
Just 16:05 into the contest, Genoa-Kingston’s Erick Beltran was whistled for deliberate handling of the ball inside the penalty box. That meant the red card expulsion of the Cog co-captain a penalty kick which Conley converted for his 49th goal of the season. With G-K still adjusting, Hinckley-Big Rock pounced with Conley delivering a textbook cross and set-up for Zack Michels to pocket a seven-yarder from the right side.
“That hurt us because it was tough to keep our morale up,” Genoa-Kingston coach Randy Tate said. “They played real hard in the second half and I can’t ask more of them. Penalties have hurt us this year and this one was just way too hard to overcome. Our (12-6-2) season was higher than I expected and (the regional) title was a pleasant surprise.”
Hinckley-Big Rock gained a 3-0 lead just 5:46 after halftime when Conley fed Billy Weissinger for a six-yarder from the middle.
“To their credit, they stepped it up a little bit and we got a little too content with a 3-0 lead,” Conley said.
Genoa-Kingston’s Devon Tijerina chipped a free kick toward the left post from where Uriel Ortega’s blast went through Forest Grivetti’s hands and a clearing attempt by the H-BR instead wound up in the back of the net for an own goal. The Cogs found another offensive gear for threats and with a loose ball out front, junior Cris Camargo launched a 10-yard strike that upped his school single-season goal record to 28. That made it 3-2 with 7:21 still to be played.
“We kept fighting and we got closer and closer, but the mistakes from the first half were just too much for us to overcome,” Camargo said. “It was a good year, but having it end like this still hurts deep inside.”