I'd say mission accomplished!
The Lady Toppers knew Saturday was
going to be a tough game going up against the defending state
champs, Freeport Aquin. This group of girls, though, loves a
challenge, especially 5-foot-3 senior all-stater Jessica Awe. Awe
came out firing from the start in Saturday's championship game. She
set an IHSA record by sinking four 3s in the first quarter and
nearly single-handedly gave Mount Pulaski the 14-7 lead.
Freeport Aquin's all-stater Sophie Brunner took over for the
second quarter, scoring 10 points including the buzzer-beater to
give the Bulldogs the 25-21 halftime lead.
At this point a four-point deficit for Mount Pulaski certainly
did not have its fans worried. After overcoming a nine-point deficit
at halftime in the semifinal game on Friday versus Cowden-Herrick,
the fans knew this lead was not insurmountable.
What Mount Pulaski did not know, though, was just how much of a
force Arizona State-bound Brunner would be in that second half.
Brunner scored 21 points and pulled down five rebounds alone in the
final two quarters of the game.
Mount Pulaski kept on fighting, even though Freeport Aquin shut
down Awe in the third quarter. Seniors Kendra Willoughby and Erika
Leever stepped up to score all 11 points for the Lady Toppers in the
Down 38-32 to start the fourth quarter, Mount Pulaski needed some
way to figure out how to stop Brunner, though it was like climbing
up an icy slope. Awe and company did all they could do. With 3:40
left in the game, Mount Pulaski was just a 3 away from getting to
the top of that slope.
[to top of second column]
But a layup, followed by a jumper, followed by a free throw, all
by Brunner, would not allow Mount Pulaski to do so. And so began the
slide downward. It happened so quickly, that with 1:03 left in the
game, Mount Pulaski trailed 51-44. Still enough time for Brunner to
score a couple more baskets and finish with a game-high 33 points.
Coach Leever would then pull his starters in the final seconds so
the crowd could give them the standing ovation they rightfully
Final score: Freeport Aquin over Mount Pulaski 55-46.
Even though the score shows otherwise, the entire weekend was a
win-win situation for the Lady Toppers. History had been made.
Now, where do we hang the banner? Oh, and we are going to need
another trophy case.
Final stats for the Lady Toppers on
Jessica Awe: 19
Erika Leever: 11
Kendra Willoughby: 6
Andrea Dickerson: 5
Whitney Nichols: 3
Emily Johnston: 2 points
[By CADY LOWERY]