Jr. Hornettes Take Down Pontiac To Make History

The Nashville Middle School Jr. Hornettes won the first girls basketball state title in school history with a 35-31 win over Pontiac in the SIJHSAA Class M State Title Game. Back Row: Coach Tierney Moore, Hailey Baugh, Daci Finke, Korbi Rhine, Baylie Newman, Emma Eberhart, Alyssa Cole, Hope Liszewski, Jill Kuhl, Annie Ahlers, and Bryan Tebbe. Front Row: Jordan Donato, Emme Paszkiewicz, Daphne Kollbaum, Ryan Stiegman, and Emily Guest. 

Jr. Hornettes Take Down Pontiac To Make History

By Brent Huelsmann

After a second and third, place finish in the past two years, the Nashville Middle School Jr. Hornettes finally captured an elusive SIJHSAA Class M State Championship with a comeback win over Pontiac. The Jr. Hornettes captured their first State Championship in school history with a 35-31 win over Pontiac. Nashville overcame a seven point halftime deficit in the win.

The Jr. Hornettes got out of the gate quick as Daci Finke and Daphne Kollbaum each connected from behind the arc to give Nashville an early 6-2 lead. The Jr. Hornettes then got a three point play from Jordan Donato to help Nashville keep Pontiac at bay. At the end of the first, Nashville held a 9-7 lead over Pontiac.

Pontiac tied the game early in the second, and took the lead when Shannon dowell hit her first of three, three point shots in the second quarter to give Pontiac a 12-9 lead. Nashville tied the game at 12, but could not take the lead. Pontiac scored eight of the next ten points to take a 21-14 lead over Nashville. With time winding down, Hope Liszewski knocked down a big three to get Nashville within four, but Dowell would bank in a three at the buzzer to push the Pontiac lead back to seven at halftime.

Kollbaum came out in the third and hit her second three of the game to get the Jr. Hornettes back within four. A few minutes later Kollbaum and Alyssa Cole would knock down back to back shots from behind the arc to give the Jr. Hornettes first lead since the beginning of the second quarter. Nashville would continue to hold the lead until there was less than a minute remaining in the quarter when Laylah Jackson knocked down a three  to give Pontiac a 31-30 lead with one quarter to play.

It would be the last points Pontiac would score. Nashville scored the final five points of the game to complete the comeback and win the first State Championship in school history. Nashville took the lead for good on a shot from Cole, and made free throws down the stretch to hold off Pontiac.

Coach Tierney Moore said this is something this team has been working towards since last year. “It’s great. We got a little upset last year, with Vienna. They were a really good team, but we worked hard again this year, and I think the girls already had their mind set that they wanted to get to this game again, so I’m really proud of them, especially being down by seven at half. They worked their butts off the second half.”

Pontiac shot the ball well in the Championship, something Coach Moore talked about after the game. “Actually I think that is the best they have shot this whole state tournament. We watched them twice, and they made four threes in the past two games. They made two threes each game before ours, and they were just shooting lights out, the first half. The girls were kind of a little bit down about that, but I told them that, nobody is going to feel sorry for them. They just have to play through it. And I knew that they couldn’t shoot that well in the second half. I’m glad we kind of put some pressure on them and handled that.”

Cole led the way with 13 points in the win, eight of which came after halftime. Kollbaum finished with nine, followed by Finke, Liszewski, and Donato who all finished with three points apiece. Baylie Newman finished with two points to round out the scoring.

A gallery from the action in the State Championship game can be found here.