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Hornets Down Mater Dei To Win NIT Championship

The Nashville Hornets boys basketball team took home the NIT Championship with a perfect 3-0 record. Back Row: Matt Anderson, Cameron Parker, Tanner Bergmann, Terry Pelczynski, Carson Parker, Bryce Bultman, and Dale Anderson. Front Row: Brandon Schnitker, Joe Morris, Kelton Harre, Tristen Hercules, Jacob Maschhoff and Jake Haley.
By Brent Huelsmann
Two new teams joined the fray this year at the NIT, but when it was all said and done, the Hornets were crowned NIT Champions. The Hornets defeated Mater Dei in the Championship game to win their ninth NIT Championship in school history. Nashville finished with a perfect 3-0 record in the tournament.
Mascoutah finished third with a 70-55 win over Central. Granite City defeated Brentwood in the fifth place game 64-51.
The Hornets got the tournament started with a 60-50 win over the Brentwood Eagles on January 16. Both teams started out hot offensively as the two teams combined for 33 first quarter points. When the buzzer sounded at the end of the first the Hornets held a slim 17-16 lead. Bryce Bultman led Nashville in the first with eight points, six of which came from behind the arc.
The Eagles quickly took the lead in the second on a three pointer by Chris Hill, but it would be Brentwood’s final lead of the game. The Hornets would quickly tie the game on a basket by Bultman. Bultman would get fouled on the shot and made the ensuing free throw to give the Hornets a 20-19 lead. Nashville was able to keep the Eagles at bay the rest of the first half, and led 29-26 at halftime.
In the third, the Hornets picked up the defensive intensity as they held Brentwood to just six points in the frame. Offensively Nashville scored 14 points to gain a little bit of a cushion. At the end of the third, the Hornets held a 43-32 advantage. In the fourth, the Hornets built their largest lead of the game a 54-38. Brentwood would make one last run, but only got as close as eight. Down the stretch Nashville would knock down free throws to take a 60-50 win.
Bultman led Nashville with 23 points. Overall the Hornets had three players in double figures. Carson Parker finished with 16 points, followed by Jake Haley who added ten points. Tanner Bergmann chipped in five points, Cameron Parker scored four points, and Matt Anderson scored two points in the win.
Nashville’s defense stepped up big time in their second game of the tournament against Central on January 19. On a night where the offense struggled, the Hornets held Central to just seven second half points to take a 33-25 win.
The two teams were even in the first, as each team managed to put six points on the scoreboard. Bultman and Haley each had three in the frame for Nashville. Central’s Tyler Joest took over in the second, as Joest put the Cougars on his back with nine points in the quarter. At halftime, the Cougars led 18-14.
The second half belonged to the Hornets, as Nashville took their first lead of the game early in the third quarter. Nashville would outscore Central 10-2 in the third to take a 24-20 lead into the final quarter of play. The Hornets were led in the third by Carson Parker who scored his first eight points of the game in the third quarter.
Nashville would then score the first seven points to the fourth to take a 31-20 lead over the Cougars. Overall the Hornets started the second half on a 17-2 run before Jackson Haag hit a three late. The Cougars would score just two points the rest of the way as Nashville grabbed a 33-25 win.
After the game, Central coach Jeremy Shubert talked about the offense. “Offense went stagnant a little bit. A couple things, we never got it in the post. Even Tyler (Joest) hit a tough shot there at the buzzer to go up 18-14, then we only score two points for the next 16 minutes basically or 15 minutes is all we can muster, and that was Mason Weems off the bench getting a post move. We tried to get it into the post all night, we finally get it in there and we something to happen.”
Shubert went on to sum everything up by saying, “We got to be better.”
Hornets coach Wayne Harre praised his team’s defense in the win. “We made it hard for them to score. I thought we did a great job of protecting the bucket, and when the big Joest kid tried to drive in there we got a lot of help on him.”
Nashville was led by Carson Parker who scored 12 points, all of which came in the second half. Bultman finished with nine points, followed by Haley with five points. Bergmann added four points, while Brandon Schnitker rounded out the scoring with three points.
The stage was set for the Championship game. The Hornets would face off against the Mater Dei Knights, a rematch of a game that took place at the Mater Dei Tournament.  Mater Dei defeated Nashville 42-39 in overtime on December 29.
Nashville jumped out to a lead early as Haley and Carson Parker each knocked down a three to give the Hornets a 6-0 advantage. Overall the Hornets knocked down three from behind the arc in the first, and led 15-8 after the first quarter.
After the Knights scored the first bucket of the second quarter to cut the Hornets lead to 15-10, Nashville would go on an 11-2 run to extend their lead to 26-12 over Mater Dei. Haley and Anderson each knocked down shots from behind the arc during the run to extend the Hornets lead to double digits. At half, Nashville had extended their lead to 32-17 over the Knights.
After the break, the Hornets maintained their lead over the Knights, and did not allow a major run to let Mater Dei back in the game. The Knights outscored the Hornets in the third, but still trailed 43-30 with one quarter to play. In the fourth, the Knights would get as close as eight, but Nashville went 10-15 from the charity stripe to close out the Knights and take the Championship 59-49.
After the game, Mater Dei coach Ron Schadegg said his team wasn’t ready to play in the championship environment. “Championship game, you have to be ready to play, there is no other question about it. We are hovering at .500 and you have an opportunity to win a championship at .500. You’ve got to have a little bit more toughness, a little bit more attitude, a little bit more guts than we showed early on in the game. Late into the game, late when we were scrambling we showed it a little bit, but we didn’t start with that and I think that hurt is. When they jump up on you ten points, the style they play, as passively as they are offensively, ten points is like a twenty point lead. We talked about it beforehand, and we just didn’t respond very well tonight.”
Coach Harre was happy with his team’s defense in the win. “I thought we guarded them really well. We had fresh legs. They are a hard team to guard. I thought they were really playing well coming into the tournament. Even the games they played in the tournament, they had a lot of energy. I thought we did a good job trying to stay in front of them. They are just a hard match, because they are all about the same and they do about the same stuff so it a hard match and we’re trying to mix and match all the time, but I thought our kids did a good job of guarding them. And then also on the offensive end we shot it real well today.”
Bultman and Carson Parker each had 19 points in the win to lead Nashville. Haley added eight points, followed by Schnitker and Bergmann with four points apiece. Anderson rounded out the scoring with three points.
Nashville will be back in action as they travel to take on Anna-Jonesboro on January 26. The Hornets will return home for a game against Carlyle on January 27.

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