Central Wins Sixth Title In Eight Years
By Brent Huelsmann
After a thrilling comeback win over Teutopolis to begin play in the Nashville Invitational Tournament, the Hornets would go 1-2 over their final three games, with two close losses to close out the tournament. The Hornets would finish the tournament with a record of 2-2. Breese Central took home their sixth tournament title since 2009, with a 4-0 record.
The Hornets got their second consecutive win of the tournament, as they defeated Mascoutah 50-26 on Tuesday, January 19. The Hornets got off to a quick start and never looked back, as Nashville held an 11-2 lead after the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Hornets were able to extend their lead to 21-10 going into the halftime break. The Hornets did not let up after half, as Nashville outscored Mascoutah 17-9 in the third quarter, led by Brady Bultman with seven points, and Royce Newman with six points in the quarter. Down the stretch, the Hornets were able to cruise to an easy 50-26 win.
The Hornets finished with three players in double figures. Bultman led Nashville with 16 points in the game, followed by Newman with 13 points. Hayden Heggemeier added 11 points, including two big three pointers in the second quarter. Brogan Kemp added six points, followed by Ryan Brink and Jacob Haley with two points apeice.
After an off-day for the tournament on Wednesday, the Hornets were back in action on Thursday, as Nashville took on Breese Central. A close game throughout, the Cougars used a late run, to escape with a 51-48 victory over the Hornets. A back and forth, first quarter, saw each team have a lead of at least four points, but as time wound down, Central's Jack Strieker was able to connect to give the Cougars a slim 16-14 lead after the one. The second quarter started out quick for Central, as they quickly extended their lead to seven points on back to back buckets by Chase Schneider. The Cougars could not keep Nashville at bay, as a quick Nashville 5-0 run, highlighted by a Heggemeier three pointer, pulled the Hornets back within two. As time wound down, the Cougars were able to get a big three by Schneider to go into the break with a five point lead.
At the start of the third, the Cougars were able to keep a steady lead, but three turnovers as time wound down, allowed the Hornets to pull within one point going into the final quarter. In the fourth, Newman began to become a force in the game. The Cougars extended their lead to five, early in the quarter, but a three by Heggemeier got the Hornets back within two. Newman then tied the game, for the first time since the first quarter, setting up for a thrilling finish.
The Hornets got the lead late, and a bucket by Brink gave Nashville a 46-40 lead with just over one minute left to play. Two free-throws by Central's Logan Kohrmann cut the lead to four. Kohrmann then got a big steal, and connected to cut Nashville's lead to just one point. Another Nashville turnover, allowed Strieker to get free to give Central a 47-46 lead. As the Hornets looked to take back the lead, Nashville turned the ball over, on their third consecutive possession. The Cougars got big free throws from Mitchel Rule to escape with a 51-48 victory.
After the game Central coach Jeremy Schubert, praised Nashville, “you've got to give those Nashville kids a lot of credit, they battled on the boards, and I think they got every dang loose ball, they outrebounded us by three or five and those are the things you've got to do to win, but our kids stepped up and made just enough free throws.”
Hornets coach Brad Weathers felt his team let one slip away, “ six point lead with 1:08 left and we don't take care of the basketball, bottom line. For a lot of the night, it was very very good for us, we were down eight at one time, worked really hard and Central made it really difficult to score inside, and even get some looks, and we worked really really hard and got that lead, but we made some poor decisions in the last minute that cost us the ball game.”
The Hornets were led by Newman with 13 points in the matchup. Heggemeier and Dalman joined Newman in double figures with 10 points apiece for Nashville. Brady Bultman added six points, followed by Brink with five points. Kemp scored four points to round out the scoring.
Friday marked an off-day for the Hornets, in the NIT, but saw the Cougars take on cross-town rival Mater Dei, after Teutopolis looked to get their first win over Mascoutah. In the early game, Teutopolis got their first win of the tournament as they crusied to a 67-43 victory over Mascoutah. In the late game, Central controlled Mater Dei, as they used a big second quarter and easily defeated the Knights 57-44.
The final night of the tournament, saw the Hornets, without their leading scorer and rebounder, take on Mater Dei in the early game, followed by Central taking on Teutopolis. In the early game, the Hornets and Knights battled in another thrilling game. In their first matchup of the season, the Knights defeated the Hornets in double overtime, during the Mater Dei Christmas Tournament.
A back and forth first quarter, saw Mater Dei hold a slim three point lead going into the second quarter. In the second, Mater Dei was able to get some breathing room, as they extended their lead to nine points in the quarter. Two free throws by Bultman closed the gap, but the Hornets still trailed 27-20 at the halftime break.
After halftime, the Hornets came out on fire, as Bultman and Kemp knocked down shots to cut the Knights lead to just two points. The Hornets would get as close as one, after a three point play by Heggemeier, but could not get any closer the rest of the way. Mater Dei was able to extend their lead to five points going into the fourth quarter, and led by as many 10 points late in the fourth. The Hornets would make one last run, as Heggemeier and Bultman each hit a three to get within four points. Mater Dei was able to make just enough of their free-throws, as they held on for a 64-62 victory.
After the game, Coach Weathers, praised the team for playing without Newman. “It was a great team-effort tonight, we really had to battle hard against a team that was bigger than us at every spot on the floor for the majority of the night. Yeah we were behind but we still hung in there.”
The Hornets had a balanced scoring effort without Newman in the lineup as Nashville finished with four players in double figures. Bultman led the team with 19 points, followed closely by Kemp with 17 points. Heggemeier and Brink each had 11 points apiece, and Dalman had four points to round out the scoring.
The final matchup of the tournament saw the Cougars trying to capture the championship trophy, as they took on Teutopolis, one of two teams to defeat Central this season. The Cougars struggled mightily in the first half, but used a controlled the second half, as they defeated Teutopolis 52-43 to capture the NIT title.