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.”

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 16th, 2014 at 10:42 pm and is filed under Heyworth Buzz, The Normalite. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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