With four starters returning from a team that won 23 games and reached the Class 1A Sectional title game a year ago, optimism ran rampant among those involved in the Okawville girls basketball program heading into the season.
Disaster struck just 30 seconds into the season.
Senior Madison Hackstadt, a second-team all-state selection as a junior, suffered a knee injury in the opening seconds of the Rockets season opener against Collinsville. The injury would keep the Rockets 6-foot-1 guard/forward out until January.
“It was a huge disappointment for everybody. But I was heartbroken for Madison because she had worked so hard to get ready for her senior year,” Okawville coach Michelle Hasheider Burianek said. “But we had to keep going. We couldn’t feel sorry for ourselves. We had to pull together as a team. That’s exactly what we did.”
Ranked among the top 10 Class 1A teams in the state all season, the Rockets are 20-8 and will play host to a Class 1A regional beginning Monday at Okawville. Seeded second behind Lebanon in the regional/sectional complex, Okawville will take on the winner of the game between seventh-seeded Sandoval and 10th-seed Valmeyer, in a semifinal at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The regional final is at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Despite playing without Hackstadt and senior guard Madelyn Tepe for an extended among of time, Okawville began the season 13-1. The Rockets are just 7-7 in their last 14 games, but only one of their eight losses have come to a Class 1A foe, and that was 38-31 setback to Lebanon last month.
“I think we’re coming along,” Hasheider-Burianek said. “We’re as healthy as we’ve been all year with Hackstadt and Tepe back. Madison isn’t near 100 percent, but she’s playing and moving a little better each time out. She can’t hurt the knee any more than it is. After the season is over, she’ll have surgery and get ready to start her college career. Our schedule is very difficult and I think playing the type of competition we do gets us ready for the postseason and that’s when you want to be playing at your best.”
The winner of the Okawville Regional will advance to the White Hall-North Greene Sectional next week.
Class 1-2A Girls Basketball postseason capsules
Class 1A Cobden Regional
- Seeds: 2. Cobden, 3. Elkville, 6. Marissa, 8. New Athens, 10. Shawnee
- Favorite: Cobden
- Could Surprise: Elkville
- Synopsis: The Appleknockers (17-5) are clearly the class of the field on their home floor. Marisssa (13-12), is in the midst of one of its best seasons in some time and is led by guard Kenzie Kern (9.2 ppg.). New Athens (11-12) has hovered around the .500 mark all year but could surprise if three-sport standout Danika White (10.3 ppg,) is on her game.
Class 1A Metro East Lutheran Regional
- Seeds: 1. Lebanon, 4. Metro East Lutheran, 6. Father McGivney, 8. Madison, 9. O’Fallon (First Baptist Academy
- Favorite: Lebanon
- Could Surprise: Metro East Lutheran
- Synopsis: Ranked among the top three Class 1A teams in the state all season, Lebanon (25-1) lost all-state guard Kendra Bass to a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago. But still with three of the top Class 1A players in the state in seniors Krista Bass (10.5 ppg.), Madison Schoenfeld (9.7 ppg., 7.7 rebounds) and junior Emily Reinneck (13.2 ppg., 4.8 rebounds), the Greyhounds should not be pushed until perhaps the sectional semifinals next week. Host Metro East Lutheran (14-11) has a top pair on Ellen Schulte (13.2 ppg.) and Sami Kasting (10.5).
Class 1A Okawville Regional
- Seeds: 2. Okawville, 3. Centralia (Christ our Rock Lutheran), 5. Gibault, 7. Sandoval, 10. Valmeyer
- Favorite: Okawville
- Could Surprise: Centralia (Christ our Rock Lutheran)
- Synopsis: Injury-riddled from the opening quarter of the season, Okawville (20-8) appears to be poised and healthy enough to make a long postseason journey. The Rockets are led by seniors Madison Hackstadt, Madelyn Tepe and Casean Tebbe. Christ our Rock Lutheran (17-5), which knocked off the Rockets two years ago on their home floor for the regional title, dropped a 34-25 decision to Okawville early in the season.
Class 2A Nashville Regional
- Seeds: 2. Nashville, 3. Sesser-Valier, 5. Carlyle, 6. Althoff, 8. Wesclin
- Could Surprise: Sesser-Valier
- Synopsis: The Hornetttes have once again flourished under the defensive-minded coaching style of Doug Althoff. Nashville enters the postseason with a record of 19-7 after playing a tough schedule which includes many of the top 1A, 2A and 3A teams in the south. Senior Karly Stanowski led Nashville’s veteran lineup which romped through an undefeated River-to-River Conference championship. Sesser-Valier, at 24-2, is a real threat should Nashville have an off night while both Carlyle and Althoff are capable of pulling off an upset ot two.
Class 2A Pinckneyville Regional
- Seeds: 1. Mater Dei. 4. Pinckneyville, 7. Red Bud, 9. Dupo, 10. Sparta
- Favorite: Mater Dei
- Could Surprise: Pinckneyville, Red Bud
- Synopsis: The top-seeded Knights (19-7) enter the postseason on a roll. Fresh wins over Nashvillle and state-ranked Teutopolis, coach David Kohnen’s team has relied on a balanced scoring attack led by Myah Beckmann (10.7) and Kierra Winkeler (14.5) and appears ready for a possible return trip to the Class 2A super-sectional. Red Bud, led by junior Sophie Richards, won 20 games for the first time under third-year coach Haylee Althoff and could be threat.