Rachael Kell releases a shot during the Hornettes 59-28 win over DuQuoin on February 1.
By Brent Huelsmann
Domination, just one word to describe the Nashville Hornettes girls basketball team’s reign over the Southern Illinois River to River Conference Mississippi Division. In the 25 years of the Southern Illinois River to River Conference, the Hornettes have won 22 conference championships. 19 of the championships have been outright.
After Carterville grabbed the crown last season, the Hornettes finished 10-0 in conference to take back the conference crown this year. Nashville won their final two games of the regular season as they defeated Pinckneyville and DuQuoin to clinch the SIRR Mississippi Division Title.
After a huge win over Carterville on January 25, the Hornettes just needed to win one of their final two games of the season to clinch the conference crown outright. Nashville got their first chance on January 30 as they traveled to take on the Lady Panthers of Pinckneyville.
Though the Hornettes easily took the first meeting between the two rivals 42-14, this game was much closer. In the second meeting, Pinckneyville came out of the gate firing, as the Lady Panthers held the lead for the majority of the first quarter. Pinckneyville would hold a 9-7 lead at the end of the first.
Rachael Kell took over in the second quarter of play. With the Hornettes trailing 16-12 midway through the frame, Kell would knock down back-to-back-to-back threes from behind the arc on consecutive trips down the floor to turn a four point deficit into a 21-16 lead. Hornettes coach Doug Althoff, talked about Kell’s second quarter. “She had a moment there when she was struggling. I took her out and she was only out for a couple minutes, then I told her are you ready to go now, and she said yeah I’m ready. Boy she was. She buried those three threes there and that was huge for us.”
At half, the Hornettes led 25-20.
After the break, Pinckneyville came out firing. The Lady Panthers were able to tie the game at the midpoint of the quarter, and would take the lead late on free throws. With one quarter to play, Nashville trailed 32-30.
The final stanza belonged to the Hornettes. After Pinckneyville took a 34-30 lead, Kell would knock down another three which would start an 8-0 run for the Hornettes to put them ahead. Pinckneyville would tie the game at 38 late, but would never regain the lead. Nashville would end the game on a 10-1 run to put the Lady Panthers away and clinch the SIRR Mississippi Division outright.
After the game, Althoff talked about being down a few players. “We were a little shorthanded tonight, but that is no excuse. We battled through it, and this time of year everyone sees everyone so much that there really isn’t any surprises and you don’t get any easy buckets or baskets. The closer you get to postseason, the more it’s turns into postseason games, that game there was just another postseason game for us. I’m just glad we got the conference and we will enjoy it.”
Karly Stanowski led Nashville with 23 points in the win. Kell added 16 points, with 12 of them coming from behind the line. Paige Kasten added five points in the win, while Sophie Heck and Sabrina Kollbaum each scored two points for the Hornettes.
As the calendar turned to February, Nashville looked to finish a perfect 10-0 in conference play as they took on the DuQuoin in the Hornettes final regular season home game of the season.
On Senior night, the Hornettes got off to a quick start and were in cruise control by the time the second half came around as they defeated the Lady Indians 59-28.
Nashville got early three pointers from Kasten and Heck, which helped the Hornettes jump out to a 13-5 lead after one quarter of play. Althoff talked about the quick start after the game. “The thing I was happy with tonight, was we got a good start. The last few games we just couldn’t get out of the gate. We talked about that before we started tonight. I said lets get out there and get going, take care of business, and they did. They were ready to go tonight, and that’s a good sign and hopefully that carries over into the postseason.”
The offense for the Hornettes caught fire in the second quarter as Nashville outscored DuQuoin 19-5 to take a commanding lead. Nashville got one three apiece from Kell and Kasten, and 11 points in the quarter from Stanowski to help put DuQuoin away.
In the third, the Hornettes continued to extend their lead as they outscored DuQuoin 14-8 in the frame. Nashville was in cruise control in the fourth, as the starters were out of the game for most of the quarter. Nashville made seven of nine free throws down the stretch to finish out the game and grab the 59-28 win.
Atlhoff talked about the quarter century of domination that the Hornettes have put together over the SIRR Mississippi Division. “That’s pretty incredible really if you think about it. It just shows how good this program is and what it means, because when these kids come into this program, they know that this is what we do. It just seems like they play a little harder all the time. They want to do what the other team in front of them did.”
Althoff went on to talk about being able to play the Regional in Assembly Hall. “Postseason, it’s great to be home. It’s been a long time since we played a regional at home. I know the girls are really looking forward to it. The fans were great tonight. We had great crowd support tonight, and I hope they come out for the Regional games, hopefully we have two Regional games.”
Stanowski led Nashville with 20 points in the win. Kasten finished with 12 points followed by Rylee Luechtefeld with six points. Emily Stern and Kell scored five points apiece. Sabrina Kollbaum finished with four points, and Heck rounded out the scoring with three points in the win.