BasketballPEORIA – For some high schools in small towns in Illinois, returning to State Finals in certain sports sometimes looks to outsiders like a common occurrence. To the folks living in those towns, many probably treat them as something to be expected as that particular sports season winds down. Small Illinois towns like Newark and Nashville come to mind when it comes to return performances year after year.

But in Heyworth, getting to State has been a rarity that comes rarely and therefore, the teams, fans, and town make the most of the occasion. In November 2010, Heyworth High’s Volleyball team made its maiden appearance at Illinois High School Association State Volleyball. This past weekend, the Hornets’ boys basketball team landed on the big stage at Carver Arena here to compete for IHSA Class 2A State title.

Mooseheart (28-3) came out firing from the opening tip, jumping out to a fast 7-0 lead on a layup by junior guard Hameed Odunewu followed by a layup and a jump shot by senior guard Mangisto Deng. Heyworth senior forward Kaleb Marr entered the record books as the first Hornets player to score points in a State championship game thanks to a deuce at 6:40 in the period, cutting Mooseheart’s lead, 7-2.

But another Deng trey pushed Mooseheart up, 10-2, starting a 12-0 run that Heyworth (26-7) could not contain, giving the Red Ramblers a 19-2. A trey by junior guard Hayden Boyd at 2:26 in the quarter, cut Mooseheart’s lead, 19-5. Senior center Colten Reeves, coming off the bench, would be the only other Hornets player to score in the quarter, as Mooseheart owned a 21-7 lead going into the second quarter.

Whereas the first quarter showed that height and speed were Mooseheart’s trademarks, the second quarter proved one of Heyworth’s greatest strengths was making adjustments. When Hornets senior forward hit a jumper at 5:44 reducing Mooseheart’s lead to 21-9. A trey by Hornets senior guard Adam Wickenhauser at 4:57 shrank the lead to 21-12. Mooseheart edged out a little further, 24-12, with on Deng free throws.

But no one could imagine what was coming after that from the Hornets, starting with a pair of free throws from Reeves cutting the lead, 24-14 . Reeves’ freebies were the start of a comeback as they were followed by another Wickenhauser trey at 3:04 in the quarter, making the score 24-17. Mooseheart did manage a deuce by senior forward Makur Puou, and another Deng free throw, putting the Red Ramblers up, 27-17. But the Hornets kept coming from there, as senior guard Justin Witten hit a trey at 2:08 to close the lead, 29-20. Deng hitting another jumper to put Mooseheart up 31-20 didn’t seem to faze the Hornets, as senior forward Logan Johnson swished two free throws through the net after being fouled, cutting the lead, 31-22, with 1:49 until halftime. Mooseheart sophomore guard Freddie Okito got the last Red Rebels basket of the half, putting his team up, 33-22. But using a trey and a layup, respectfully, Wickenhauser and Witten closed out the deficit at the half, 33-27.

Heyworth managed to maintain the pace they had established before the half a little longer once the third quarter began, as Wickenhauser hit a pair of unanswered jumpers to open the period, narrowing Mooseheart’s lead, 33-31. Heyworth extended the run further — taking the lead for the first and only time in the game, 34-33, on a trey by Marr. Heyworth fans among the roughly 4,400 fans in the arena screamed and cheered as their team demonstrated their sting during the onslaught. But as quickly as Heyworth caught up, Moosehart, the Red Rebels were on the march again on a jumper and two free throws by Puou, followed by a jumper by Deng, charging forward again, 39-34 on their way to a 45-38 lead going into the fourth quarter. Mooseheart opened the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run, starting with a layup from senior guard J.J. Odunsi. The Barrage ended once Marr hit a layup for the Hornets, cutting Mooseheart’s lead, 54-40, with 5:18 left in the contest. Free throws by Schultz and senior guard Dallas Lee helped Heyworth curb Mooseheart briefly before the Red Ramblers charged forward one last time toward the eventual final score, starting with a free throw shot by Deng, having been fouled by Marr.

Deng, nephew of former Chicago Bulls center Luol Deng, was Moosehart’s leading scorer in the contest, with 27 points. He was followed in double figures by 15 from Puou, and 11 from junior guard Hameed Odunewu. Wickenhauser was Heyworth’s lone man in double digits with 16 points.

“Early on, we were very passive in everything we were doing offensively and defensively,” Hornets head coach Tom Eller said. “Mooseheart built a substantial lead on us. We talked at the end of the first quarter about the need to get more physical and chip away at the lead, and we started doing that in the second quarter.

“In the third quarter, we ended up taking the lead, and at that point, I thought we were going to continue rolling,” Eller said. “The downside is, when you battle back from 17 points down, essentially taking a run of 18 points to take the lead by one, it takes a lot out of the kids.

“We were pressuring Moosehart full court for most of that time,” Eller said of the period when the Hornets made their impressive run at the Red Ramblers. “We were getting kids in foul trouble, and we were turning to our bench for our guys to step up for guys who were in foul trouble, and they did a fantastic job today.

“I think it wore on us to go up and down the court consistently, but we did,” Eller continued. “It got a little bit away from us in the fourth quarter where we couldn’t put a run together to come back.” Eller added he was surprised the Hornets fell as far behind as they did against Mooseheart, but that his team initiated a rally to rebound from the early deficit was no surprise.

Heyworth Hornets Heyworth put up a lot of shots in the contest, going 17-for-73 from the field, including giving out 30 3-point tries, six of which earned points. Each team had a total of 41 rebounds, but Heyworth outpaced Mooseheart in that category in the first half, 27-11.

In talking about the second quarter trey that got the Hornets rally its needed push, Wickenhauser said, “It was fun and I was glad I could do it being able to come off the bench and shoot it. I had confidence.

Summing up the season for his Hornets, Eller said, “If you had come to me at the beginning of the season and told me we would finish second in the state, I’d have been thrilled with that. I still am. To go through the different injuries and illnesses that hit our team this year…you’re talking about a group that was looking to win a Regional championship at the beginning of the year.

Eller’s final summation included mentioning that prior to this year, the closest Heyworth has ever gotten before was a Sectional championship. “But ending up in the championship game, in the state tournament, even though we came up short, is something that these kids and the coaching staff will remember, and the Town of Heyworth is going to remember for years and years to come,” he concluded.

“I’ve never seen a team shoot the ball out that far,” Mooseheart head coach Ron Ahrens said about the shots the Hornets took in the midst of their rally. “They were shooting from a long ways out. You know, stuff we wouldn’t even defend. But the thing I thought about them from the beginning is they are one of the more balanced teams we would face all year. I thought they played extremely hard.”

Ahrens said he told his players at one point in the game he didn’t think they were “matching Heyworth’s intensity level. We needed to match their intensity. That was something I liked about them. We knew it was going to be tough going in.”

Hornets Beats Sesser-Valier In Semifinal: 57-51: Eller said the realization of what his team had accomplished really did not sink in until after the Hornets’ 57-51 win over Sesser-Valier in the first semifinal contest on Friday. “It’s just unbelievable what we’ve done and what the kids have accomplished, the teamwork that they’ve given, and the dedication that they’ve given to the coaching staff this season,” he said.

But it was real and Sasser (22-11 after this game) found out early how seriously the Hornets were about taking the first step to being in a State Championship game. Dallas Lee will go down in local sports lore as the very first Heyworth player to score points in a State semifinal contest, as he sank a tip-in bucket at 6:28 of the first quarter in the Hornets’ semifinal against Sesser-Valier, putting Heyworth up, 2-0. In fact, Lee scored the first two buckets of the semifinal, and senior guard Wesley Anderson added another bucket, giving Heyworth a quick 6-0 start on the road to a possible championship. A deuce by Sesser senior guard Tyler Baxter cut off that run, but Heyworth found themselves up, 6-2.

Sasser senior center Nick McCarty’s jumper at 4:19 in the first quarter cut Heyworth’s lead, 6-4, but a Marr trey at 3:11 put the Hornets up, 9-4. a deuce by junior guard Logan Barrett cut that lead, 9-6, but Marr hit his second trey of the quarter, putting Heyworth up, 11-6 at 1:24. Two free throws by Lee and a layup from Schultz would give the Hornets a healthy 15-6 lead.

Lee would foul Sasser junior guard Nick Marlo, who would convert two free throws, followed by a three from junior guard Jake Vanwey, cutting Heyworth’s lead, 15-11, with 7:06 in the second quarter. Vanwey would hit a trio of threes in the period, cutting Heyworth’s advantage to one, 18-17, with 5:01 left until the half. Heyworth would stretch its lead, 24-19, on a pair of free throws from Witten and a Johnson jumper. Unanswered jumpers by Marlo and Baxter would reduce Heyworth’s lead, 24-23, before Boyd would hit a three, putting Heyworth up, 18-23. Sasser responded with one jumper each from Marlo and junior forward Luke Thompson, but the Hornets would still hold a 28-27 halftime lead.

Baxter, McCarty, and Marlo would combine to make the beginning of the third quarter tough on Heyworth, as the Red Devils took the lead, 34-31, at the 4:26 mark. Schultz’s deuce at 2:57 cut that lead to 34-33, and Boyd sank a trey with an assist from Schultz, allowing Heyworth to retake the lead, 36-34, going into the fourth quarter.

Witten opened the fourth quarter being fouled as he hit a deuce, and converted the free throw, putting Heyworth up, 39-34 at the7:12 mark. Thompson responded with a trey at 6:53, cutting the Hornets’ lead, 39-37. Marlo fouled Marr, who subsequently hit two free throws, putting Heyworth up, 41-37. A Vanwey jumper would put Sasser within two, 41-39, but a jumper by Witten and jumper-free throw combination after being fouled helped Lee add to the total, giving Heyworth a 46-39 lead. Thompson would get a trey for Sasser, cutting that lead, 46-42, but Heyworth would outpace Sasser, 8-2, to take a 54-44 lead with 1:29 left, giving the Hornets plenty of room toward earning a first semifinal victory.

Boyd led all scorers with 15 points. Marr followed for Heyworth with 12, and Lee added 10. Vanwey’s 13 led Sasser’s attack, followed by 10 from Marlo.

“Offensively, we struggled today,” Eller admitted. “We shot 26 percent for the game. The thing that carried us today, and this has been the issue for us in the postseason, was our free throws.” Against Sesser, Heyworth went to the line making 26-for-35, or 74 percent of their shots.

“We were able to get to the free throw line and knock them down. That was the huge difference in the game,” Eller said. “Typically, when you shoot 26 percent, you don’t win a ball game.”

“I thought it was a very hard-fought game,” Sesser-Valier head coach Shane Garner said addressing the media afterward. “Both teams had great guard play. I just thought Heyworth answered the call at the end of the game. They converted very, very well from the free throw line. I thought they were very poised. I thought they did a great job of executing their game plan very well.”

BasketballNORMAL – Fans of Heyworth High School athletics can notch another sport they can brag about getting to State competition in nearly 3 ½ years after the Hornets Volleyball team made it to Redbird Arena here to compete in their very first Statewide sports event in 2010.

With Monday’s 72-62 elite eight victory over Champaign St. Thomas More in the same arena the Volleyball team saw glory, Heyworth’s boys’ basketball team earned their first-ever trip to Illinois High School Association Class 1A tournament, and will meet Sesser-Valier High School at Carver Arena in Peoria on Friday. That game will tip off at 12:15p.m. Sesser-Valier High School defeated Dieterich High School to advance to the final four. Sesser-Valier High School is located in Franklin County in southern Illinois.

Heyworth’s next-to-last march to State began as a chase as the Sabers jumped out to a 5-2 lead early in the first quarter, as Heyworth senior forward Kaleb Marr sank the Hornets’ very first bucket of the game, but St. Thomas More responded with a deuce from freshman forward Doug Whalen, followed by a trey from senior forward Kyler Jones. Another basket by Marr put St. Thomas More up 7-4 at 3:05 in the opening quarter, but a deuce followed by an unanswered trey, both by senior guard Justin Witten, gave Heyworth an 11-7 edge with 58.2 seconds left.

A pair of free throws by Jones after being fouled by Witten cut Heyworth’s lead, 11-9 with 30.9 seconds left in the opening quarter. A trey by St. Thomas More senior guard Mike Plecki cut Heyworth’s lead, 13-12, but a deuce by Hornets’ senior forward Kyle Schultz as the first quarter ended gave Heyworth a 15-12 lead.

Heyworth Hornets A trey by senior guard Keaton Davis helped push St. Thomas More up, 19-17 in the early moments of the second quarter, and after a deuce by Schultz tied the game at 19-all at the 5:24 mark in the second quarter, the Sabers pushed ahead on baskets by senior guard Storm Joop, Whalen, Plecki, and Davis to outpace Heyworth, 28-22, with 2:28 until halftime. A trey by Witten cut that lead to three, 28-25, at the 2:12 mark, but another basket by Davis gave the Sabers a 30-28 nudge en route to a 33-30 halftime lead. A pair of Heyworth Free throws by Plecki helped reduce the margin for the Hornets.

Heyworth pulled within one as the third quarter opened, 33-32, on a Marr basket, followed by Plecki sinking a deuce to give the Sabers a 35-32 lead. But a basket by senior Wesley Anderson at 6:42 in the quarter set off an 8-0 barrage which featured two deuces by Marr and one by Witten, pushing the Hornets up 40-35 with 5:23 in the period, prompting Sabers head coach Matt Kelley to call a timeout. As the period wound down, a pair of deuces by Whalen, a layup by Plecki, and a trey by freshman guard Clavin Davis pushed the Sabers up by two, 46-44, going into the fourth quarter.

Baskets by Plecki and sophomore forward Joel Yumba pushed the Sabers up, 50-46, with 6:51 left in the contest. But a pair of free throws by Marr combined with a trio of unanswered deuces by Witten, senior guard Dallas Lee, and Schultz pushed the Hornets in front, 52-50, with 5:01 remaining. A basket by Whalen tied the game, 52-all, at the 4:41 mark. But with Marr’s next basket – a deuce with 4:22 remaining – the Hornets surged ahead offensively while defensive steals and pass interceptions converted into points allowed for what seemed an effortless victory in the game’s remaining minutes. In fact, in the contest’s last two minutes, foul calls against St. Thomas More sent Marr, Witten, and Schultz to the free throw line where they converted a combined 8-of-10 to close out the contest, sending the Hornets into the history books.

Witten led the Hornets in scoring with 24 points. He was followed in double figures by Marr with 19, and 12 from Schultz. Whalen and Piecki each pocketed 15 points for Champaign St. Thomas More, followed in double figures by Joop’s 11.

By Steve Robinson | February 28, 2011 - 10:03 pm
Posted in Category: Heyworth Buzz

Steve RobinsonLike most high school freshmen, Hollie Sinn is a spirited young person ready to take on the world in whatever direction her lessons and her heart guide her.

During the basketball season, Sinn, a freshman at Heyworth High School, had taken on the task of trying to be a three-point champion on her first try.

Holly was among 32 girls who participated in a shootout semi-final for Illinois High School Association Class 1A and Class 2A players at Redbird Arena on Feb. 24, hoping to be a finalist who would go on to competing to be a three-point on her first try.

Giving it her all, and moving swiftly between the three shooting stations, Hollie looked to be concentrating intently with every throw. But of the 12 shots she took, only 4 swished through the net. Hope dashed with every miss, but although the outcome was disappointing, Hollie could still be found smiling at the end.

“It wasn’t how I wanted it to go, I guess,” Sinn said after it was all over. “But I had fun.”

For a coach, watching their player compete in a three-point shootout must be somewhat nerve-wracking. During games, a coach can yell instructions or plot strategy during a timeout. During a three-point shooting contest, a coach can do nothing more than join the rest of us in the stands and watch…and hope.

Heyworth High School head coach Tony Griffin was seen doing just that while Sinn was working through her turn on the floor.

After it was all over, Griffin had praise for his player for her effort the first time out at this event. “I wanted to see her do well,” Griffin said. “She represented us very well.

“I’m very proud of what she did,” Griffin added. “She got a lot of shots up in the last few weeks, and hopefully, it will carry over to next season when it really counts on the floor.”

I’ve been told by players who have had a similar experience that when a player goes from cozy hometown gym to large arena, there is an intimidation factor that sets in. At first, Hollie didn’t think the bigger stage contributed to her final score, but then, almost with her next breath, said, “I guess…A little.”

But then her youthful spirit blazed through when she added, “But I got here. That was my goal.”

I reminded her that her being a freshman, she would three more chances to try this again, and her optimism came through again: “That’s what’s good about it,” she said with a smile.

We should all take her approach when disappointment sets in. I have a feeling Hollie will be back for a future three-point contest…or two. Or three. No doubt that pride her coach has in her now will grow as she continues to mature as a player.

Sinn is an up-and-coming three-point shooter. I thought, were she and second-year reigning Class 2A three-point queen Allie Norton were to sit and chat, Norton could give her some pointers.

“She just needs to keep practicing,” was the best advice Norton offered to the young Hornets player coming up behind her. Norton, a senior at Bloomington Central Catholic, will compete in a “Queen of the Court” competition against the 3-point champions from Class 1A, 3A, and 4A next weekend at Redbird Arena, when the Class 3A and 4A girls State Championships will be back in town.

When I asked Norton if she was excited to be competing against the four other free throw Queens, she had her mind on business-at-hand. She said she was concentrating on winning a State Class 2A Championship with her Saints teammates first before even thinking about concentrating on the free throw finale.

As it turns out, Hollie is not the only Hornets player striving to succeed at making the most shots from behind the arc. In addition to Sinn, two Hornets boys’ basketball players – sophomore Nick Norton, son of Bill and Linda Norton; and Zach Quinn, a junior, son of David and Kim Quinn – are trying to find themselves in Peoria for the boys’ 3-point shooting finals when they take place next week.