In small communities, where high school sports teams, sometimes, have a couple of siblings or maybe even two sets, when it comes to competing in the Illinois High School Association COUNTRY Companies 3-Point Shootout competition, it’s entirely possible that a small school could have siblings qualify for that event. Well, I am here to tell you Heyworth High School, and one family from Heyworth in particular, did manage to see their offspring compete at Redbird Arena on a court named in honor of Doug Collins on Feb. 27.

The Ruppert sisters – Shae, a senior, and Paige, a sophomore – daughters of Lance and Amy Ruppert, both managed to get through District and Regional competition of this challenging event to find themselves competing during the semifinal event with hopes of making the finals which would be played in between one of the semifinal games on Saturday. The winner of Saturday’s competition would be crowned Class 1A Queen Of The Court and would qualify to compete against three other contestants during a break at the IHSA Class 3A-4A Championships which will be this weekend.

Shae, an HHS shooting guard, said she and Paige began practicing in earnest just prior to the first round of Regionals began, but admits after Sectionals is when they at least began working on the shoot-arounds. Those practices took place in HHS’ gym. She added that neither she nor her sister had tried to practice somewhere akin to Redbird Arena, where I met up them, and where they met up with a larger stage and no solid wall behind the backboard of the basket where they were shooting. That is something all coaches who have kids get to this point try to prepare the kids for if they aren’t used to it.

Shae said HHS head girls’ basketball coach Ron Spencer, who just finished his first season at the controls of this team this year, did tell the girls “our depth perception would be a little off because there’s no wall behind the hoop.” She said Spencer also told the girls to be sure they were standing behind 3-point line for high school players and not the one for college players.

Spencer said he wasn’t surprised seeing both girls get into the COUNTRY Financial 3-Point Competition because their performances during the regular season indicated to him their both being good outside shooters would be an asset to them during the competition. He added he told the girls not to be discouraged if their shots from the first rack of five balls didn’t turn out well. “It’s always entirely possible that if that were to happen, they could go on a real firestorm with the next 10 shots,” he said he told the girls.

“The girls have been in pressure situations all year,” Spencer added, whose first season at HHS this year ended in a 16-19 effort. “Shae was our leading scorer and Paige was in the paint for us, so they’ve faced situations like this before.”

Paige, a point guard for HHS, said when one sister was practicing shots, the other was lending encouragement and serving to recover rebounds. “We never really practiced shots alone,” Paige added. “We were always together.”

Paige added that as they were practicing and going through competitions, they considered the possibility they could wind up where they found themselves when they got to Doug Collins Court. “I knew I thought we would both probably make it.”

“I think they were both surprised that we made it and we tied with the number of baskets every time,” Shae said their parents’ reactions to how they advanced getting to this point. Living in farm country, it, perhaps, only stands to reason Shae has college plans which include going to the University of Illinois with intentions of majoring in Agriculture Accounting. She said it’s a combination of consumer education with agriculture-based knowledge added.

Her interest in that stems from her and her sister’s grandfather, Dave Ruppert, having a cattle farm.

Their parents watched from separate vantage points – Amy and her mother, Carol Bohle, sat in the stands alongside the north basket while Lance positioned himself near the top of the seats directly facing the basket. “I was surprised and excited but I thought they were both capable of getting to here,” Amy Ruppert said. Behind the mother-daughter duo in the stands, their coach was joined by HHS girls’ team members to give both girls that added boost from the crowd.

Their father, Lance, played basketball for Nokomis High School, but Amy attended Mulberry Grove High School in south central Illinois, where they didn’t have a girls’ basketball team when she was there, she said. It will be a few years, at least, before the Rupperts can say they are done totally with basketball because, in addition to the girls, they have a son, Chase, who is a sixth grader, this year. Carol Bohle said her son-in-law had the girls handling a basketball since they were each around two-years-old.

“The two of them getting here was the special thing about today,” Lance Ruppert said. “How they did was the icing on the cake, so we weren’t worried about how they did, really, whether it was winning or losing. They shot the ball well and I’m proud of them. It was good.”

From how they handled themselves during shoot-around and during their individual turns in the competition, they handled themselves well. As far as shooting order was concerned, Shae had the almost unenviable slot of going second in the first group of shooters for the day. After each making 9 at Regionals and 8 at Sectionals, she sank a total of 7 here. But the first shooter of the group hit 8, and one girl behind her hit 9. Paige was the second shooter in the fourth and last group of 8 to shoot and sank three baskets.

Despite neither girl being able to advance, Shae said taking part in the Shootout “was a cool experience for me.” As it turned out, the different background didn’t affect her, and neither did the 45 second shot clock because, she explained, “I shoot pretty quick anyway.” Paige said her experience was similar to her sister’s and, she added, “It was fun to be part of.”

Paige, who will still have two years left at HHS, said she was happy to have played in this competition with her sister, since they have played together all their lives.

And from the reactions in the stands, it was fun for family, friends, coaches, and teammates, too. Neither girl might have advanced, but it surely proved to be a W of another kind for HHS.

Nine Wasn’t Enough For BCC’s Abbey Davis: In Class 2A, Abbey Davis, from Bloomington Central Catholic High School, managed to get 9-of-15 shots through the hoop, but that proved to not be enough as four other contestants scored 10 baskets or higher, and advanced to a second round runoff.

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 1st, 2020 at 10:30 pm and is filed under 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.

Comments are closed.