Senior Dalton Litterly literally goes flying thru the lane to score late in the fourth quarter on Senior Night Friday night at the Ed Butkovich Gymnasium. Despite a tremendous effort by the Toppers, Springfield Lutheran came out on top 53-42.

Mount Pulaski senior athletes, cheerleaders and band members recognized on Senior Night
Toppers fall to Springfield Lutheran

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[February 08, 2016]  LINCOLN - Despite a tremendous effort last Friday by Mount Pulaski's Toppers on Senior Night, Springfield Lutheran came out on top 53-42.

Senior Brett Huff led the Toppers with 13 points, while Riley O'Connell led Lutheran with 22 points.

Coach Ryan Deibert started all five seniors on his squad Friday night: Brandon Huff, Brett Huff, Will Stewart, Dalton Litterly and Caleb Przykopanski.

Mount Pulaski had jumped out to a 9-8 lead in the first quarter but it was O'Connell who gave the Crusaders the lead 11-9 with his three at the end of quarter play.

Lutheran stretched the lead to 13-9 quickly in the second quarter before buckets by Will Stewart and Lukas Aylesworth tied the game at 13-13 with 5:18 on the clock.

Brandon Huff would go on to get fouled as he drove to the basket in the Toppers next possession and a trip to the free throw line for one-half of the senior Huff twins putting Mount Pulaski up 14-13.

Mount Pulaski stole the ball from the Crusaders the very next trip down the court and Brandon Huff quickly ran the other way and made an extraordinary play that brought the Topper fans to their feet. The pass was long and nearly out of reach for Brandon but he leaped up and grabbed the ball, juggled it in the air momentarily and a split second later he tossed it in for a layup. All the while looking smooth. As the ball traveled thru the net, a big smile from Brandon and a round applause from friends and family could be seen and heard throughout the gym.

Mount Pulaski had a 16-13 lead at this point. Pretty soon O'Connell was back at it again for Lutheran, sinking a three to tie the score at 16-16. O'Connell and Jacob Pfeiffer went on to build a lead on the Toppers, while Mount Pulaski got four more points from Brett Huff in the quarter for a halftime score of 25-20, in favor of the visiting Crusaders.

Lutheran kept their momentum going into the third quarter and even extended the lead to 29-23 until Aylesworth and Stewart brought the purple and gold back again. Stewart's offensive rebound and subsequent put back allowed the Toppers to inch closer, 29-27 with 5:06 remaining in the third quarter.

Then it was Aylesworth barreling thru the lane and getting fouled. He sank both free throws with 4:18 on the clock and just like that it was a brand new ballgame.

The Toppers and Crusaders would also be knotted at 31-31 with 2:42 remaining in the quarter, but five straight points by Lutheran resulted in a 36-31 third quarter lead for the blue and white who hail from the west side of Springfield.

Early in the fourth quarter, Mount Pulaski got down 39-32 and then 41-34, following a basket by Peyton Taylor.

Next, things got interesting to say the least. Mount Pulaski got a little frustrated, not without good reason, as a technical foul was called on Stewart and then Coach Deibert.

From the corner in front of this reporter the Crusaders' Steven Cowles had the ball one second and the next second he hauled off and threw a mighty elbow right at the closely-guarding Stewart. Stewart has been plagued with injured ribs much of the season due to getting many elbows tossed at him, and this one really was not necessary. As happens often, the referee only saw Stewart not taking politely to the situation, and therefore a quick "T" (technical foul) was announced.

Coach Deibert jumped up from the bench immediately to let the referee know his opinion and another technical foul was handed out. As a hush fell over the gym, O'Connell stepped to the line for Lutheran and he made 3 of the 4 free throws to extend the lead to 44-34 with 2:44 left to play in the game.

Lutheran scored again quickly, as they had possession of the ball following the technical foul, and that basket really put a dagger in the hearts of Topper fans. A twelve point lead by the Crusaders shook the Toppers up a bit, and Mount Pulaski simply tossed the ball away the next time down the court.

While the Toppers were struggling with time running down, they were forced to foul, and Lutheran took advantage at the line and went ahead 48-34 late in the game.

Litterly would come storming back down the court for the Toppers and lay in a basket, proving the fight was not over. Then Brett Huff knocked down a three to make the score 50-39, but there was just a minute left to play.

In that final minute, Coach Deibert surrendered and pulled the seniors for one last applause on their home court, and then this happened. As Stewart left the court and headed towards the bench, he may or may not have been complimenting Cowles on his shoes, the one who previously elbowed him hard to the chest, and another technical was called. This time Stewart headed quickly to the locker room and O'Connell sank three more free throws to finish out the scoring for Lutheran.

Meanwhile, Geezus Oliver entered the game for the Toppers and he swished a three with :10 seconds left to settle the score at 53-42.

The Toppers fall to 11-11 with the final regular season loss at home.

Now on to the rest of the evening.

Despite the Topper Varsity loss, the rest of the night was wonderful. The evening kicked off with a delicious pork chop dinner served by the FFA members and alumni.

The Junior Varsity Toppers won 45-37 over the Springfield Lutheran Junior Varsity. Seth Huff led the way here with 14 points and Eli Griesheim chipped in 13 points in the win.

Jack White of Lutheran had 17 points in the losing effort.

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In between the basketball games 17 Mount Pulaski senior athletes, cheerleaders and band members were recognized along with their parents at center court. Many of these students had devoted all four years to their chosen craft and were applauded by the packed crowd Friday night.

Mount Pulaski senior basketball players and cheerleaders are Brandon Huff,
Will Stewart, Emily Maus, Caleb Przykopanski, Hannah Freer, Brett Huff and
Dalton Litterly.

Senior MPHS Pep Band members
Front row (L-R): Elizabeth Siebert,
Miranda Hilliard, Kamryn Aylesworth
and Katie Fairchild.
Back row: Dalton Dierker, Brian Batchelder, Max Coppinger, Liam Davis
and Brianna Stewart.
Not pictured: Hunter Sherman

Meanwhile at halftime of the Varsity game, the cheerleaders performed a dance routine to the Demi Lovato song, "Confident" and it was spectacular. The routine was choreographed brilliantly by Lynette Grisham and the cheerleaders executed every move precisely and with enthusiasm. It was perfect and really showed how appropriately confident these girls are performing in front of a large crowd.

The cheerleading sponsors, who also did an amazing job all season are Valerie Cecil and Danielle Williams.

Finally the group of students who really made the evening a sound-smashing success are those of the Mount Pulaski Pep Band. This year's pep band featured ten senior members who all excel in their musical talent.

The Pep Band plays not only the Star-Spangled Banner and the "Fight on Pulaski" school song, but also arrangements that vary from Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir and Immigrant" song to the themes from "Jaws" and "The Blues Brothers" just to name a few.

Without a doubt, the fantastic job done by the Pep Band, under the direction of Mr. David Helm, has been a major highlight of the season.

Lastly, the crowd enjoyed Donna Vaughan cake in the main lobby. I can personally say the strawberry was a favorite, with chocolate and white running close seconds.

Congratulations to all of the seniors who entertained the crowd all season. You will be missed and you are wished the best of luck in the future!

Back to game notes, the Toppers have four away games remaining on their regular season schedule, with games set for Tuesday night at New Berlin, and Friday night at Illini Central.

Toppers Varsity scoring

Brett Huff 13
Aylesworth 8
Taylor 7
Littterly 4
Stewart 4
Brandon Huff 3
Oliver 3

Crusaders Varsity scoring

O'Connell 22
Pfeiffer 11
Steven Cowles 8
Squires 4
Ethan Roland 3
Antoine 2
Bahr 2
McQuinn 1

Toppers Junior Varsity scoring

Seth Huff 14
Griesheim 13
Farris 4
Olson 4
Oliver 3
Trimmer 2
Dyer 2
Shehorn 2
Hayes 1

Crusaders Junior Varsity scoring

White 17
McCloughan 6
Patton 4
Jared Roland 4
Crifasi 4
Drew Cowles 2

[Teena Lowery]

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