Boys basketball: McHenry falls to Warren in Class 4A sectional championship

Warriors finish season with program-record 26 wins, 1st regional championship since 2012

McHenry’s Adam Anwar, center, and Marcus Honea, right, battle a host of Warren Blue Devils  during IHSA Class 4A Sectional Final action at Rock Valley College on Friday night.

ROCKFORD – McHenry players and coaches leaned heavily on each other throughout one of the program’s best seasons ever.

The Warriors, who two days ago broke a school record with their 26th win, desperately didn’t want to see their time together on the court come to an end.

But offensively-charged Gurnee Warren was simply too much to handle Friday.

The top-seeded Blue Devils denied the second-seeded Warriors’ dreams of celebrating their first sectional title since 1976 with a 70-38 win in the Class 4A Guilford Sectional final at Rock Valley College.

Warren (31-4), winners of 11 in a row, moves on to face No. 2 Palatine (27-8) in the NIU Supersectional at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

McHenry’s Marko Visnjevac works under the hoop against Warren during IHSA Class 4A Sectional Final action at Rock Valley College on Friday night.

“This season meant everything,” said guard Marko Visnjevac, who passed 1,000 points during his senior season. “These are the most important people I’ve ever met in my life. I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.

“We went through ups and downs all year. People said we weren’t good enough, but we kept going.”

Warren was led by freshman Jaxson Davis with 18 points, two 3-pointers and eight rebounds. Senior forward Alex Daniels tossed in 13 points, and junior guard Jack Wolf had 12 points and two 3s off the bench.

Junior guard Caleb Jett led McHenry (26-9) with 14 points. Junior forward Dylan Hurckes added nine points, Visnjevac had seven, and senior forward Hayden Stone had five points and two blocks.

McHenry coach Corky Card, who earned his 300th career win Wednesday, said the Warriors were unable to match the physicality of the Blue Devils early on. Warren jumped out to a 23-7 lead after the first quarter and led 41-16 at halftime.

The Warriors tied a season-low with their 38 points, finishing 28% (14 of 50) from the field. Warren, meanwhile, shot 48.3% (28 of 58).

Warren’s Jaxson Davis moves the ball against McHenry during IHSA Class 4A Sectional Final action at Rock Valley College on Friday night.

“Our kids had trouble with how physical it was and never really recovered, had trouble getting into the flow,” Card said. “We got the ball up and down OK. We just couldn’t score. They took it at us.”

Warren coach Zack Ryan was happy with how his team didn’t stop against a Warriors team that was averaging 62.7 points a game entering Friday.

“[Visnjevac] has been really lighting it up the last few games,” Ryan said. “We put our best defender [sophomore Braylon Walker] on him, just making it hard for them, not giving them clean looks and making sure we’re active on the ball. I think our pressure got to them.”

Stone, who transferred from Indiana as a sophomore, said he’ll take away a lot of good memories from his time with the Warriors.

“We went through ups and downs all year. People said we weren’t good enough, but we kept going.”

—  Marko Visnjevac, McHenry senior guard

“These guys made me feel like family right away,” Stone said. “And I feel this year especially, we shocked a whole lot of people getting to this point.”

Card said he appreciated the hard work of everyone, including his five seniors: Visnjevac, Stone, Marcus Honea, Tyler Hurckes and Julian Mendez.

“As a coach, sometimes you get way too much credit,” said Card, who was hired late in the summer after Chris Madson moved to the athletic director position.

“And, really, coach Madson and coach [Rob] Niemic had everything set up, the kids were all set up to be good. I just enjoyed the journey, just how connected they were and how much they sacrificed for each other. We played 11 kids almost every game. That doesn’t happen that much in today’s game.”

McHenry players had a long and emotional talk after the season-ending loss.

“Us five seniors were talking to the younger guys, making sure they’re still rocking and rolling for next year,” Stone said. “We’re all sticking together. Tons of us will see each other in school and outside of school, some of us are going to college together.”

Visnjevac, who plans to play in college but is uncommitted, was proud for turning some heads this season. The Warriors finished ninth in the FVC last year. They took fourth this year, improving by seven wins in conference play.

“We’re not just the people at the bottom of the conference anymore,” Visnjevac said.

McHenry’s Caleb Jett, front, moves the ball as Warren’s Braylon Walker defends during IHSA Class 4A Sectional Final action at Rock Valley College on Friday night.