Hornets advance to title game
Nashville survives free throw shooting woes; play Chicago Orr Saturday

– In typical Nashville fashion, the Hornets defense bailed them out of their state semifinal game against stubborn Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley.

And as the game unfolded Friday night, Coach Wayne Harre's club needed every stop they got.

With chance after chance to put the outcome to rest, the ABV top-ranked squad struggled mightily from the foul line.

Averaging 68 percent from the foul line for the season, the Hornets converted just 17-of-31 Friday night, which allowed the Falcons to hang around much longer than Nashville would like.

Nevertheless all turned out for the best for the squad as they survived and advanced to their first state championship game since 2014 with a narrow 47-45 victory.

When the Hornets next take the floor they will face two-time defending 2A champions Chicago Orr.

The Spartans easily handled Chicago Corliss in the first semifinal on Friday; 83-50 in a game where the defending champs outscored the Trojans, 50-23 in the second half.

Carson Parker led the Hornets with 17-points while senior guard Bryson Bultman added 13.

But neither of the guards were good from the charity stripe.

They combined for just 8-of-21 in the game, with several missed shots in crucial times in which they could have slammed the door shut on Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley.

In Friday night's matchup, as it has been the case throughout the 2018-19 campaign, someone always managed to step up and make plays to keep their season moving forward.

Kelten Harre, a 5-foot-11 senior guard, didn't make a field goal in the contest but he dropped in all six of his free throw attempts.

Four of which found the mark in the final frame.

Tanner Bergmann, another senior vet, made both of his free throws he shot on the night and ended up with seven points while junior forward Terry Pelczynski tossed in four points off of the bench along with a big bucket in the fourth quarter.

“It was a grind out game, we probably could have made it easier if we hit some free throws. All year long, we've shot them pretty well, it kind of surprised me that we missed them. But you know what, those things happen,” said Coach Harre.

As mentioned before, defensively the Hornets never wavered as they held the Falcons well below their seasonal average offensive output.

GCMS ended up just 16-of-44 from the field (36.4 percent) and just 6-of-21 from the 3-point line.

Head coach Ryan Tompkins and his Falcons will face Corliss in the third place game on Saturday night.

Six-foot-five senior Ryland Holt was a standout for the team, leading the charge with 18-points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field with his final bucket being his only made 3-pointer of the game in the final seconds.

His bomb cut the lead down to the final margin in the final moments but the Falcons were out of timeouts and couldn't stop the clock.

By the time they were able to foul Parker, the clock said :00.1 left.

Parker went to the line and subsequently missed both foul shots.

After his second miss, GCMS rebounded the ball but couldn't get a long shot off before the horn sounded.

Six-foot-one senior Ben Freehill added 10-points for the Falcons as the senior led club tasted defeat for the first time since they played short handed in their own Thanksgiving Tournament back in November.

As they were in the process of preparing for a state football championship win, they lost a pair of contests in the tourney.

At full-strength, the Falcons won their next 31 games leading into Friday night.

“You come here there's not much wriggle room because you have a lot of good basketball teams. These are the best teams in the state of Illinois,” said Coach Tompkins. “To be down double-figures in the first half and come back get it down to a possession with a chance in the fourth quarter is a testament of how these kids work, how well they play together and how they fight.”

Both Bultman and Parker scored four points each and Bergman nailed his 3-pointer in the first frame that came to an end at 11-9 Nashville.

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley led just twice in the game; 3-0 early on a bomb from Freehill, and briefly in the second quarter on a Freehill rebound bucket to take a 13-12 advantage.

Nashville put together a 9-0 run to take a 21-13 lead.

With both Bultman and Parker scoring in the paint on a drive and a lob pass from Bultman to Parker on an inbounds play.

However Holt got to the line for a conventional three-point play as they closed the gap to 21-16 at halftime.

Holt added another “and-one” in the third quarter to get the Falcons two within two.

Nashville answered each time GCMS tried a to get an extended run going.

Parker got a tip-in off of a missed Hornets shot and he took a pass on a back door cut from Bultman for a lay in to close the quarter at 29-23.

The fourth quarter could have been easy as pie for the Hornets, had they converted more from the freebies at the stripe.

Nashville connect on just 11-of-20 in the final eight minutes, which allowed the Falcons to stay alive.

But four made free throws in succession by Harre and Bergman in the early part of the fourth gave the Hornets some breathing room at 33-26.

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley got consecutive buckets from Conner Birky and Bryce Barnes as the Falcons got back the momentum trailing just 35-33 with 3:54 left.

But the next possession, Pelczynski nailed a 3-pointer from the right corner to keep Nashville on the upside.

After yet another 3-pointer from Birky, Bultman scored on a drive to the basket and Harre converted two of his foul shots.

In the final minute, leading just 43-39, Bultman finally put two free throws down, Pelczynski got 1-of-2 from the line and Parker hit 1-of-2 with :14.9 left.

The Holt trey from the left wing closed the scoring as the Hornets survived to play for the championship.

“I thought our defense was solid. They (Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley) are a very good team. That whole group has won a lot of games with football and basketball,” said Coach Harre “They were making shots out there like they weren't going to lose. We were fortunate to win and to get out with a win.”

Nashville was out-rebounded by the physical Falcons 30-22 with Holt putting together a double-double with 12 rebounds to go with his 18-markers.

The Hornets ended up 14-of-30 from the floor overall.

Bultman was credited with a pair of steals and three assists and seven rebounds.

Parker led the team with nine rebounds.

“We've been in situations, our schedule has prepared us moments like this, we've had those moments and you don't win 31 games in-a-row without making big plays. Going against the number one team, they were ranked number one for a reason, we were ranked where we were for a reason. It's frustrating not getting over the hump, there's nothing more frustrating than the fact that we just didn't come up with a win,” said Coach Tompkins.

The mountain next on the horizon is the defending champs.

Orr has taken on much larger schools in five different states in preparation for the title game.

They have won all six of their postseason games in dominating fashion.

The Spartans average margin of victory in their run is 26.5 points a game.

2A State Semifinals
Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley
Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (44) – Bleich 0 0 0-0 0, Holt 4 1 7-8 18, Barnes 2 0 0-0 4, Freehill 2 2 0-0 10, Birky 1 2 0-0 8, Short 1 0 0-0 2, Garard 0 1 0-1 3, Elliott 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-10, 3FG-6, FT-7-9, PF-21.
Nashville (47) - Bergmann 1 1 2-2 7, Hercules 0 0 0-0 0, Harre 0 0 6-6 6, Bultman 5 0 3-9 13, Parker 6 0 5-12 17, Pelczynski 0 1 1-2 4, Anderson 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-12 3FG-2, FT-17-31, PF-14.

Fouled Out – Barnes, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley; Bergmann, Harre - Nashville.
Technical Fouls – None.