SOMONAUK – When Bill Sambrookes arrived at Hinckley-Big Rock before the 2002-03 season, he didn’t understand the importance of the Little Ten Conference Tournament.
However, Sambrookes, now in his 11th year as Royals coach, quickly found out how much the tournament, which began in 1920, meant to teams around the conference.
Friday night, Sambrookes watched his veteran team win its second consecutive Little Ten Tournament title with a 39-30 win over rival Indian Creek.
It’s the first time top-seeded H-BR (20-3) has won consecutive tournament championships in school history.
“[The Little Ten Tournament]’s really important to the communities, to the schools in the Little Ten Conference,” Sambrookes said. “Once I got here, the first year, we didn’t win it. Then I understood, because we didn’t [win it] for a while. I understood how valuable it was. I saw people celebrating here and how much importance it was.
“That’s what I told them before the game, that this doesn’t come around all the time, let alone two in a row.”
To Royals forward Zach Michels, who finished with 10 points, H-BR proved something Friday night with the victory over the third-seeded Timberwolves (13-9).
“Coming back and getting back-to-back (titles) feels pretty good. Indian Creek was the three seed and they beat Newark (in the semifinals),” Michels said. “They deserve to be here I believe, but we showed why we we’re the No. 1 seed in this tournament. There was a lot of doubters out there that we couldn’t go back to back.”
H-BR held Indian Creek to just seven first-half points. Sambrookes said the defensive performance was his team’s best of the season. The Royals’ man-to-man defense gave the Timberwolves problems.
“We really play an aggressive game. One of the things I told them before the game is because we’re so aggressive, we’re taking ourselves out of position. We don’t have help-side rotation,” Sambrookes said. “So this game tonight, come out, play it straight, minimize the traps, be smart in your positioning. And oh my god, what did they have, seven points at halftime,  points at the end of three? That’s pretty darn good defense.”
Indian Creek caught some fire in the fourth quarter, their best scoring period of the game, but the Timberwolves’ run wasn’t big enough.
Kyle Lieving led Indian Creek with seven points. Jaron Todd and Garrett Post each had five.
Despite the loss, Timberwolves coach Joe Piekarz was still pleased with his team’s second-place finish.
“We’re very happy. We think we’re on the right track,” Piekarz said. “We talked about our defense, too, because to only give up 39 points to a good Hinckley team, we’re really proud of that.”