Created:Sunday, March 3, 2013 11:55 p.m.CDT
Updated:Monday, March 4, 2013 8:17 a.m.CDT
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Hard work fuels Blue Streaks’ return to success

Woodstock’s Brad Kaufmann dribbles upcourt in the first half of the IHSA 3A Woodstock North Regional championship game Friday. Woodstock defeated Woodstock North, 64-29. (Monica Maschak – mmaschak@shawmedia.com)

The decision was made shortly after Woodstock was bounced from the IHSA Class 3A Johnsburg Regional a year ago.

The Blue Streaks declared their 5-23 record was unacceptable and that they should be better. With the players they would have returning, they were determined to not let that happen again.

“It was kind of our goal, winning a regional championship,” senior guard Andy Buhrow said.

Talking about it was one thing, putting in the necessary work was another. The Streaks were motivated and faithful, working with their respective travel teams, and with each other. And Friday night that goal, something a Woodstock boys basketball team had not achieved in 13 seasons, became real.

The Blue Streaks (19-10) will play Rockford Lutheran (24-4) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in a Freeport Sectional semifinal game.

Woodstock’s last sectional appearance came in 2000 under former coach Gordie Tebo.

“I told them last year the way it ended was disappointing,” said Alex Baker, who is in his fifth year as the Streaks head coach. “They got back into the work and preparation. It’s a good group of seniors who didn’t want to go out on that note again. You have to give that credit to the boys. The best-laid plans don’t work if the boys don’t put in the time and effort. The payoff for all that work they put in is success and all the pride they get.”

Woodstock knew it had talent, led by 6-foot-3 senior guard Jordan Turner, a dynamic player averaging 17.9 points a game. Damian Stoneking, a 6-7 junior center, has been tough in the middle and Buhrow and Brad Kaufmann, another senior guard, are long-range threats.

Jack McCoy is a gritty, hustle player and Keeondae Benjamin is a defensive ace, and both play their roles well. Mitch Kohley (6-3), Mason Sutter (6-3) and freshman Nick Kubiak (6-6) add size inside.

“It’s a great combination for success,” Turner said. “This is the first year in a while we’ve had a great post player and some guards who can shoot. To have that big a turn-around has meant a lot to our school and our basketball program. To know that going out my senior year we’ve made a big impact is satisfying.”

Woodstock finished third in the Fox Valley Conference Fox Division behind co-champions Crystal Lake Central and Hampshire. Central won the Class 4A Jacobs Regional on Friday and play in the DeKalb Sectional on Wednesday against Boylan.

Baker stood back and smiled as he watched his players, along with their parents and friends, pose for pictures with the game ball, regional plaque and the nets from rival Woodstock North’s gym after Friday’s 64-29 victory over North for the regional championship.

“It was an amazing moment,” said Buhrow, who leads the area with 67 3s. “It was one of the best moments of my life. Knowing there is only two area teams left and we’re one of them is awesome. That game and against Crystal Lake Central [a 54-53 win on Turner’s last-second shot] are the best games we’ve played all season. We’ve never played that hard and that fast before.”

The Streaks will need to maintain that level. Lutheran took third in the Class 2A State Tournament last season and has many of its key players back this year. The Crusaders beat Northern Illinois Conference-10 champion Belvidere, 71-46, in Friday’s Belvidere Regional championship.

“At this time of year, everybody has to play good basketball,” Baker said. “Everybody had to work very hard to get where they are.”