State-bound Okaw Valley shattering records, embracing underdog role

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Okaw Valley has racked up a program-record 29 wins under Brad Ackers, who is in his third year as head coach of the Timberwolves. Okaw Valley has racked up a program-record 29 wins under Brad Ackers, who is in his third year as head coach of the Timberwolves.

BETHANY -- There's only one team at the 1A girls state basketball tournament that doesn't carry the pomp of a state ranking: Okaw Valley.

Despite a school-record 29 wins, a Little Okaw Valley Northwest title and 2,000-point scorer Paige Robinson lighting up defenses, the Timberwolves haven't gotten the accolades that other teams have gotten. And that's just fine with them.

"It's the same motivation we've had all year," head coach Brad Ackers said. "I always have a chip on my shoulder, and I think the girls play like it was well. There's a lot of good basketball teams in the area. But I mean we're 29-5, been pretty good, been in every game all year and we haven't gotten any state rankings. We just haven't gotten as much attention as personally I think the girls deserve, but I'm obviously biased. We'll just use that as motivation. Like I said, nobody's expecting us to go up there and really compete but like I said, we'll come ready to go and we're going to get after it there at Redbird (Arena)."

Community pride is another byproduct of the team's run. Storefronts and public buildings all over the district are decorated in blue and white as fans rally behind the squad.

"It's an awesome feeling," senior guard Paige Robinson said. "It just gives us an extra boost having that whole community behind us and I feel like that's what's pushing us through the postseason, what's motivating us the most is all these people from our communities coming out to support us and we need to put on a show for them."

The program is making its first trip to State, but many members of the team have been in the spotlight in Bloomington-Normal before, when they took fourth in the 2012 IESA 7-1A tournament.

"I can't wait," senior forward Natalie Jeffers said. "It was such an experience whenever we were at State seventh grade year and that was just at Chiddix (Junior High in Bloomington) so I feel like when we get into Bloomington it's gonna be surreal having all those different people from all those different towns and finally give a showcase for what Okaw Valley is."

Tipoff for Okaw Valley's semifinal matchup with Stockton (31-2) is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at Redbird Arena.

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