Monday, December 15, 2014
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Girls Basketball 8-1A
Mount Pulaski Honeybears headed for State Championship!

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[December 15, 2014]  MOUNT PULASKI - Mount Pulaski knocked off Joliet Laraway 38-19 Saturday morning and then edged Augusta Southeastern 21-19 Saturday night to earn a shot at the IESA 8-1A state title.

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 Laraway 19.

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 ahead 9-2.

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 lead.

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 High School.

Mount Pulaski scoring vs. Joliet Laraway

Hayes 31
Chandler 4
Fitzpatrick 1
Cooper 2

Mount Pulaski scoring vs. Augusta Southeastern

Hayes 16
Fitzpatrick 2
Chandler 2
Wade 1

[Teena Lowery]

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