Thursday, December 11, 2014
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MPGS Honeybears headed to 8-1A Girls Basketball State play-offs

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[December 11, 2014]  MOUNT PULASKI -  The Mount Pulaski Honeybears are headed to state. Mount Pulaski defeated Morton Blessed Sacrament 42-35 Wednesday night to advance to the IESA 8-1A state tournament at Clinton Junior High School this Saturday.

The Honeybears had home court advantage Wednesday night and knew how to use it. "Our girls were determined not to lose on their home court," said Coach Jamie Anderson. As hosts of the sectional title game, the Mount Pulaski fans packed Bob Gasaway Gymnasium and their 23-1 Honeybears certainly put on a show.

Skylar Hayes opened the scoring for the Honeybears at the 3:17 mark in the first quarter as she made the move through lane surrounded by defenders look easy for two. Hayes quickly stole the ball the next play for a nice layup through traffic to give the Honeybears the 4-0 lead. A free throw later by Hayes and the Honeybears had jumped out to a 5-0 lead. Morton Blessed Sacrament had their own sharp-shooter in Tenley Dowell. A three-pointer and a layup by Dowell allowed Morton to tie the game at 5-5. Hayes would put the Honeybears back on top with a layup following a nice pass from Abigail Fitzpatrick. Dowell answered back with another three to give the first quarter edge to Morton Blessed Sacrament 8-7. At the end of one, the scoring was all contributed to Hayes and Dowell for their respective teams.

In second quarter action Megan Gold got on the board with a put back on the rebound for two and the 10-7 lead for Morton. A couple Mount Pulaski turnovers later and Morton had extended that lead to 14-7. A full court pass from Fitzpatrick to Hayes for two and a nice outside jumper from Ainsley Chandler got the Honeybears back in the scoring rhythm and made the score 14-11. Madison Thomas would hit a long two to continue the scoring streak for Mount Pulaski as they inched closer and only trailed 14-13 at this point. With 1:25 left in the second quarter Callie Anderson connected for nothing but net from the outside and the crowd went wild as the basket put the Honeybears on top 15-14. Morton was a little shaken at this point and Hayes took advantage and decided to go coast to coast for the layup and give Mount Pulaski the 17-14 lead as both teams headed to the locker rooms.

Mount Pulaski picked right back up where they left off in the third quarter with Hayes quickly scoring two on the inbounds pass from Fitzpatrick. A five second violation on Morton gave Mount Pulaski another chance to score and Hayes did it again for the 21-14 Mount Pulaski lead. Moments later it was that combination of Hayes-Fitzpatrick that has been so dominating all season as Fitzpatrick has the ability to find Hayes anywhere on the court and Hayes is usually good for a bucket. In this case Hayes delivered two more points for Mount Pulaski and the Honeybears were looking at a 23-14 lead. Tough defense by the Honeybears really rattled Morton at times and the frustration was beginning to show with Mount Pulaski on quite a scoring run. And they were not done yet. Anderson banked in a three for the Honeybears right in front of the hometown crowd and the fans jumped up in celebration. Not only did Mount Pulaski have a commanding 26-14 lead at this time but they had also went on a combined second and third quarter 19-0 scoring run. Gold finally managed to make a basket for Morton late in the third quarter but Chandler answered back with her own two points and Mount Pulaski continued to lead 28-16. Dowell was not giving up for Morton though and she continued to play her heart out. Her layup and three-pointer kept the game within reach for Morton, but at the end of three it was still Mount Pulaski with the lead, 30-22.

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Morton would score first in the fourth quarter, not once but twice, and all of a sudden Mount Pulaski saw their lead dwindle to 30-26. With 5: 06 remaining in the game Hayes went all the way for Mount Pulaski with a nice layup to extend the Honeybears lead, 32-26. A nice pass from Fitzpatrick to Hayes, who would drive baseline and pop the jumper and get the foul, and the Honeybears were back in command with the 35-27 lead. A technical was called on the Morton coach at this time and Hayes went back to the free throw and managed to sink one of the baskets for a 36-27 Honeybear lead. Dowell, who can shoot absolutely lights out from anywhere on the court, connected for two three-pointers and just like that, with 3:58 remaining the Honeybears lead was down to 36-33. Chandler nailed a key jumper with 3:31 on the clock to give the Honeybears a little breathing room at 38-33. Both teams would be scoreless until around the 1:00 mark when Dowell drove thru the lane for two points and cut the Honeybear lead to 38-35. A couple free throws by Hayes and Fitzpatrick extended the Honeybears lead to 40-35 with 28.2 seconds left in the game. Dowell would toss up a three in desperation with 20 seconds left and she would miss. Dowell quickly fouled Fitzpatrick as Mount Pulaski had possession of the ball and that would be the end of Dowell. She fouled out of the game, but it was a great all-around effort and she led her team in scoring with 23 points. Meanwhile Fitzpatrick missed those free throws and Morton had another shot but missed. Chandler got the rebound and managed to get the ball out to Fitzpatrick, who was fouled again. This time with 6.9 seconds on the clock Fitzpatrick made both buckets and sealed the 42-35 victory for the Honeybears.

As time expired on Morton, Mount Pulaski was celebrating and punching their ticket to state. Skylar Hayes, who led the Honeybears with 26 points, quickly found her dad, Assistant Coach Steve Hayes, on the court and jumped into his arms in jubilation. A great father-daughter moment, especially since the very first state championship banner hanging in the Bob Gasaway Gymnasium and looming overhead, was one that he helped earn in 1980 as a member of the Class B State Champion Bruins. Remember Skylar Hayes also scored her 1,000 point of her junior high career earlier this season.

In speaking with Coach Jamie Anderson after the game, he credited the home court advantage and the fans support. "Tonight there was just great crowd support. Everyone has been so supportive this week, from the teachers to the students there has been a lot of excitement." He added, "And I guess there will be a little more excitement because we're playing Saturday."

In fact the Honeybears (23-1) have earned a chance to play Saturday at 11:30 a.m. versus Joliet Laraway (22-1) in the IESA 8-1A State Tournament hosted by Clinton Junior High School. The winner will advance to Saturday night's game at 5:00 p.m. The championship and third place game will be Thursday, December 18.

Mount Pulaski Honeybears scoring

Hayes 26
Chandler 6
Anderson 5
Fitzpatrick 3
Thomas 2

[Teena Lowery]

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