BLOOMINGTON — As they drove back home following Saturday's final round of the Class 1A boys' state tournament, Bismarck-Henning's golfers could have spent the entire ride ruing a sculled shot here or a poor putt there.
After all, they came within 3 strokes of winning a state championship. Three measly strokes.
But they had other things to do. Like picking out which pizza place would host the party after the Blue Devils pulled off something never before done by any team in school history — finishing second in a state tournament.
In fact, if you'd have told them back in August that this would be the season's ultimate conclusion, the stunned looks of disbelief would have filled a gymnasium.
"I would have signed up for that in a heartbeat," said junior Austin Toler, who tied for ninth at Prairie Vista Golf Course. "I had no idea. I was thinking we would struggle (to get out) of sectionals, to be honest. But we won sectionals. And we pretty much played our butts off here and got second. I thought everybody else here was super good. I guess we're ... pretty good."
The Blue Devils left no doubt that they belonged. Led by runner-up Andy Bott — who lost a playoff on the first hole — and Toler, Bismarck-Henning threw a mighty scare into eventual champ Winnetka North Shore Country Day. All afternoon, the teams were separated by a stroke or 2, and at the end Country Day — which led by 2 shots entering Saturday — held on by 3.
"One shot here or one shot there, and you're fine," Toler said. "It's tough, but you can't blame it on anybody. Just wait till next year, I guess."
Bott, a sophomore, endured his share of heartache. He took a 3-shot lead into the final round, then fired a 79 but was caught by Tri-Valley's Austin Sproles, who carded a 73. Sproles parred the first playoff hole while Bott 3-putted for bogey.
"It is tough because you can always say, 'Oh, if I just would have made that putt, or if I hadn't hit it out of bounds or in the water,' " Bott said. "But we all played good.
"I was happy with the round. I was just trying to shoot in the 70s, and I thought that would be close to winning it. And it was. But in that playoff, I just hit a bad putt."
Still, there were no hangdog looks from the guys in blue shirts.
"I told them coming in, 'We made it here in 2005 and '06 with Michael Davan and Andrew Jones and we didn't bring home a trophy. The great Salt Fork teams they had, they didn't bring home a trophy,' " coach Terry French said. "'We can do something those teams didn't accomplish and something in school history that's never been accomplished — something you'll remember the rest of your lives.'"
And there is something left on the table for 2012. Bott, Toler (77-80-157) and David Warren return next fall, providing a strong nucleus.
"I'm feeling some vengeance," Bott said with a grin.
Judah Christian's Nick Berger (79-81-160) tied for 15th.
M-S' Cox finishes strong. The first half of his round Saturday didn't go so well — he was 5 over after 10 holes — but Mahomet-Seymour's Garrett Cox showed that how you finish is what you'll remember.
Cox played the final eight holes at 1 under and finished in a third-place tie in the Class 2A tournament at Weibring Golf Club in Normal.
"Something we've worked on a lot is closing out rounds and finishing, and that's what he did today," M-S coach David Sebestik said. "It was good to finally put it all together at state in front of all those people."
Cox shot 76-75-151, 3 strokes behind champ Jaret Brewer of Marion, who won in a playoff. The key to Saturday's turnaround was a dandy 7-iron that he stuck within 10 feet on a par-3.
"From then on, I didn't look back," Cox said. "That was pretty much my goal all season, getting all-state (recognition). I wanted to give myself a chance to win state, and I put myself in that position on the first day, but I didn't get off to a good start today or I would have been right there."
Centennial's Peter Black fired a 2-under 69 — the best score posted Saturday — and finished in a five-way tie for seventh place. His round included seven birdies. The Chargers took seventh in the team standings, shooting 313 in the final round. Grey Schultz shot 79 and tied for 27th. Monticello's Drew Heffley (77-78-155) tied for 15th.
Myerscough checks in third. St. Thomas More's Sierra Myerscough shot 78 and placed third in the girls' Class 1A tournament at Red Tail Run Golf Course in Decatur.
Myerscough (155) moved within 1 shot of eventual champ and Illini recruit Katherine Hepler of Normal U-High during Saturday's round before finishing 7 shots back.
"She went at it from the very first hole and never let up," STM coach Pat Hettermann said.
The Sabers, defending state champs, checked in fourth after a round of 358 Saturday for a 712 total. U-High (686) won.
"We're a better team than what we showed today," Hettermann said. "The girls all wanted it badly and tried hard. We just couldn't put it together today."
LeRoy's Molly Marcum (77-82-159) was sixth, and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley's Emily Spangler (84-80-164) tied for 14th.