Bloom Township senior Bria Gaines isn't one for individual awards or honors. Gaines knows that good players are a reflection of those around them, and she is the first to credit each Bloom Township player for helping out along the way.
"Everybody knows when they have to step up," Gaines said of the Blazing Trojans team. "I think my teammates realize that from time to time, and that's what we have."
Gaines and the Blazing Trojans have enjoyed their fair share of success this season. Bloom Township started the season with three goals to accomplish. The first goal was to win the Hillcrest Holiday Classic, and the Blazing Trojans accomplished that feat on Dec. 28 with a 73-69 victory over host Hillcrest. The second goal was to go undefeated in the Southland Athletic Conference, and Bloom completed that goal last Thursday night with a 61-41 victory over Kankakee. The third goal for the Blazing Trojans? Make it to the state finals.
"Anything can happen on any given day," Gaines said of the playoffs. "I"m just going to be sure that we're not complacent and make sure that we come in with our heads focused for that game."
Bloom will kick off tournament play Tuesday night at the 4A Lincoln-Way East Regional. The Blazing Trojans will face the winner of Monday's Sandburg-Rich Central matchup. Gaines said the team will have to continue their team-first mindset if they are to have success in the playoffs.
"We just have to play as a team at all times and believe in each other," Gaines said. "We practice hard in practice. And we just have to execute it when we get in the game, and believe in what coach (Ron Newquist) tells us to run."
Gaines has made her mark on the Bloom Township program by recently passing the 1,500 point and 800 rebound mark in a SAC game against rival Crete-Monee on January 31st. Gaines also was named the tournament MVP at the Hillcrest Holiday Classic, and still she will be the first to say that she couldn't have done any of it without her teammates.
"I wouldn't have been able to get that far without my team," Gaines said. "Without us being a team, we couldn't have gotten as far as we have. The points mean a lot, but winning as a team and playing as a team means more to me."
Bloom Township coach Ron Newquist has watched Gaines develop her game for four years, and he has seen the long days of honing her game pay off for Gaines.
"She has an incredible work ethic," Newquist said. "That's number one. She has a tireless work ethic. You have to remember too, she is double and triple teamed night after night, game by game, everybody's focus is to stop her, and she still puts big numbers up."