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.

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