For Jamie Anderson, who was making his second state appearance as
coach of the Honeybears on Saturday, the moment was indeed special
and he never held back any emotion following the win. He immediately
began jumping in the air, pumping his fists at the crowd and
high-fiving assistant coach Steve Hayes. He even ran over to hug his
wife, Amy and son, Ethan, who were sitting in the front row of the
huge sea of blue and black Honeybear fans.
Once he caught his breath a moment Anderson said, "The girls played
a heck of a ballgame. The Augusta team was very well-coached and had
a very methodical offense. Our girls didn't give up and they just
kept on playing hard-nosed defense. We kept on waiting for our shots
on offense and won together as a team. That's what it's all about."
In fact, the Honeybears motto all season has been "A TEAM ABOVE ALL.
ABOVE ALL A TEAM." Saturday's experience at the state tournament
would be no different.
Saturday morning's game versus Joliet Laraway saw the girls jump out
to an early 10-2 first quarter lead. At the half the Honeybears led
20-8 and by the third quarter it was still all MountPulaski with a
commanding 33-11 lead. The final score was MountPulaski 38 Joliet
This win guaranteed the Honeybears would be bringing home hardware
while earning a spot in the final four. While that is an
accomplishment, the Honeybears have had their sights set on
advancing even further.
The next opponent Saturday night was Augusta Southeastern. This game
started out a little slow and saw some turnovers and bad passes that
frustrated both teams. In fact the score was simply 2-0 in favor of
Mount Pulaski at the end of one quarter of play. That only basket
coming from an open layup by Skylar Hayes.
In the second quarter Hayes was fouled twice and managed to sink
three free throws to give the Honeybears an early 5-0 lead. The
Honeybears extended the lead to 7-0 as Ainsley Chandler scored two
points on the nice inbounds play. Finally at the 3:20 mark the Suns
got on the board with a long jumper for two and made a dent in the
7-2 Mount Pulaski lead. Hayes would continue to drive the lane and
get the foul and sink two more free throws putting Mount Pulaski
Both teams fouled a bunch in this second quarter and eventually
Hayes and Madison Thomas had to sit a while in foul trouble. Makayla
Stewart and Isabella Wade entered the game and saw significant
minutes on the court for the Honeybears at this time. Just before
the end of the second quarter Abigail Fitzpatrick would sink a free
throw for the Honeybears and give Mount Pulaski a 10-3 halftime
Coming out of the locker room at half the Suns were a little more
fired up, as you would expect. The first half of play was most
likely not the kind of basketball they had played to get this far.
With that being said they did go on a 5-0 run on the Honeybears just
to let them know they were not going to give up. Finally with 1:46
remaining in the third quarter the Honeybears were back in the
scoring column with a layup from Hayes to make it 12-8. Hayes had
spent much of the third quarter on the bench in foul trouble but
once she was back in she found a way to score. She would also drive
the lane for two and give MountPulaski a 14-8 lead. At the end of
the third quarter Thomas fouled out for the Honeybears as they held
on to the 15-10 advantage.
The fourth quarter was much more nerve-racking for Mount Pulaski
fans as Chandler fouled out with 2:05 remaining and the Honeybears
holding on to a slim 16-14 lead. Fouls, free throws and turnovers
was pretty much the fourth quarter story. However, Hayes went all
the way for a layup with 1:58 left to allow for a little breathing
room with the score 18-14. The Suns had their opportunities at the
line and eventually thanks to free throws made the score 18-17 with
1:19 left in the game.
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With less than a minute remaining the combination of Fitzpatrick
to Hayes was good for two and the Honeybear fans exhaled with the
score 20-17. The last minute was full of missed shots by the Suns
and missed free throws by the Honeybears.
However, a desperation shot by the Suns gave them hope in the
final seconds. The ball literally rolled around the edge of the rim
and in for a 20-19 ballgame with 6.4 seconds remaining to play.
It was Mount Pulaski ball but in all the excitement, the Honeybears
threw it away on the inbounds pass. Augusta Southeastern did not
have a chance to score in the next possession thanks to the defense
of Wade. Wade managed to get possession of the ball from the Suns
and quickly get fouled. She would sink one of two from the charity
stripe with 3.2 seconds on the clock and with time running out on
the Suns, Mount Pulaski held on for the 21-19 win.
Assistant Coach Steve Hayes, who is known for being quite emotional,
wore his heart on his sleeve as he picked up his daughter, Skylar in
a big bear hug, following Saturday night's win. Heart still pounding
moments later Hayes, who is a basketball state champion himself as a
member of the 1980 Mount Pulaski Bruins and also a state runner-up
as a 1984 Mount Pulaski Hilltopper, offered this after the close
win, "It's ten times more nerve-racking with her out there. I'm
living vicariously through her right now. It's quite the rush. It is
awesome. They deserve so much more than they got last year."
Hayes was making reference to last year's loss to Springfield
Christian in the sectionals. He noted that the girls maturity is the
big difference this year and said this year even when the girls fall
behind they do not give up. "The girls are yet to get down on
themselves. That is the difference from last year to this year. The
team effort is just unbelievable," he added.
Looking ahead to Thursday night, Coach Jamie Anderson said, "Our
ladies are ready for anything. They've played some great ball this
entire season. I am sure they will be ready to go and so will the
community." He continued by saying, "Incredible support...incredible
support and I'm so happy. It was so nice to look up and see a sea of
blue and black shirts."
Those blue and black shirts will be back to fill the gym one last
time at Clinton Junior High this coming week as the Honeybears play
for the state championship. Good luck, Honeybears!
MountPulaski (25-1) will play Danville Schlarman (22-0) for the
state championship on Thursday evening at 7:30 at the Clinton Junior
Mount Pulaski scoring vs. Joliet Laraway
Mount Pulaski scoring vs. Augusta Southeastern