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Hornets Win Three Of Four

Above: Jaxon Goforth (23), goes up for a block against Metro East Lutheran. The block ensured Nashville kept their 46-43 lead.

The Hornets began their week last Friday, Dec. 20th on the road against the Bulldogs of Sparta.

It was a close game throughout the first two periods, but Nashville was able to prevail  in the second half, outscoring Sparta 27-5 and come home with a 49-21 victory. The Bulldogs The very next day the Hornets were back at Assembly Hall in a conference battle with Benton.

The Hornets were off to a quick start thanks to two quick buckets by Jaxon Goforth and Tristen Hercules. The Hornet lead would soon evaporate quicker than it appeared. The Rangers would score the next five points, setting the stage for an extremely back and forth contest. After the first, the score was tied at ten. Although the defense remained strong in the second quarter, the Hornets did not help themselves on the offensive end.

The only scoring for Nashville came on a three pointer from Goforth, and Nashville trailed 15-13 at the half. The Rangers were able to extend their lead to seven throughout parts of the third, but a Terry Pelczynski shot from behind the arc and a Carson Parker bucket pulled the Hornets to within two before the final frame. The Hornets were able to gain a two point advantage in the fourth quarter, but Benton was able to get it right back just inside the final minute.

The score was 26-24, and Buzz Ritzel happened. The junior drove the lane and sank a layup in traffic to tie the game with 13 ticks left in the contest. On Benton’s ensuing possession, senior Carson Lewis threw up a floater from the left side of the free-throw line. The contested shot fell for the Rangers, giving them a 26-24 lead with one second left. Nashville’s last second desperation heave was no good, and the Hornets fell 26-24.

“Our defense was strong, but our offense has to get better. We have to make some shots. We want to push the basketball more, and we’re not doing that. I think it’ll come, we’re good shooters, but we haven’t seen it since the Mascoutah Tournament,” Coach Harre said regarding his team’s offensive woes.

For the first time all season, the Hornets did not have any scorer finish in double figures. Parker finished with eight, Pelczynski added six, Goforth threw in five, Tristen Hercules had two while Ritzel and Isaac Turner both finished the game with a pair.

In the last contest before the Mater Dei Holiday Tournament, Coach Harre stressed the importance of his team continuing to play hard even though they are not getting shots to fall.

“We’re playing hard, the ball just isn’t going into the basket right now, so once we start scoring baskets I think we’ll be alright. Until that happens it’s going to be a grind,” Harre said.

The Hornets looked to shake off the loss to Benton on Thursday morning in their first game at Fred Rakers Court. The number one seeded Hornets were up against the last seeded Metro East Lutheran Knights. The two teams traded baskets to start the game, but Nashville was able to close the first quarter with eleven straight points to take a 15-4 lead into the second. Throughout the second, the Hornet lead stretched to as many as 14, but the Knights were able to hang around. Metro East Lutheran ended the half on an 8-2 run, putting the score at 24-16. The Hornets seemed to have control of the game throughout the third, as they were able to get their lead back to double figures and eventually took a 36-26 lead into the last quarter. With just under five minutes left to play in the game, the Hornets held a 40-30 advantage. Metro East Lutheran’s, A.J. Smith, was able to get a pair of three point plays and hit a triple, and the once comfortable Nashville lead had dwindled to one. Parker was able to hit a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 46-43, but the Knights were going to have one more look at tying it up. On the Knight three point attempt, Goforth used his length to rise up and block the shot, came down in bounds with the deflection, and dished it off to Hercules who would then be fouled. The Goforth block and the Hercules free throws sealed the deal for the Hornets. The 48-43 victory put the Hornets at 1-0 in tournament play and 9-2 overall on the season. Parker led Nashville in scoring with 22. Pelczynski also jumped into double figures with 13 and also contributed two steals on the defensive end as well as a couple blocks. Tristen Hercules finished with seven points and added two steals on the defensive end. Ritzel finished with three points, hitting the team’s only three pointers while leading them in assists with three as well. Turner finished with two, and Goforth rounded out the scoring with one. Eight hours later, the Hornets were up against the Doss Dragons in their second game of the day. Much like the first game, the Hornets were able to get off to a quick start. After the first quarter, the Hornets led 14-8. A 9-2 scoring run enabled the Dragons to take a 17-16 lead in the second quarter, but the Hornets would respond appropriately. The Hornets used an 8-2 run to get the lead to seven. Just as it seemed the Hornets were about ready to pull away, the Dragons cut the lead back to four before the break. In a first half where the momentum swung in many different directions, the script remained the same in the second half. The Hornets were up 32-28 before the Dragons flew back to steal the lead 34-32 before the last quarter. At one point in the fourth quarter, Doss was up by seven. A Goforth three, a Parker two, and another Goforth layup brought the Hornets even with the Dragons late in the fourth quarter. After Doss took the lead again, it was Parker who tied things up at 43. With 13 seconds left in regulation, the Dragons had the ball with a chance to win the game. As they did in the first game, the Hornet defense stood up when it mattered most. They were able to force a Doss turnover with just under a second left to play and forced an extra four minutes. Pelczynski opened up the fifth period with a triple which gave the Hornets a 46-43 lead, and the blue and red never looked back. Their defense did not allow a Dragon point in the extra frame, and the Hornets made their free throws to come away with a 50-43 victory. Parker finished the game with 18, ten of those coming in the first half. Coach Harre recognized his assistant coaches for making the adjustment to get Parker out of the middle during the Dragon press.

“That half court trap was giving us all kinds of trouble. That’s why you have assistant coaches to say “Hey, we need to get Carson out of the middle. They were just guarding him man to man in there, so we couldn’t get it to him, and we like him to touch the ball, and once we got Carson out of the middle we got some good layups,” Harre said.

Goforth also finished in double figures with 13 and led the team in steals with three.

“He’s very capable. He was very aggressive tonight, and he’s very capable and he knows it. He’s really pushing himself, and I’m pretty proud of him. I thought he was lights out tonight. Just an all around really good game for him,” Harre said on Goforth’s performance.

The Hornets were able to battle through adversity in both games to secure victories, and they are hoping the early tests to begin the tournament will pay dividends going forward.

“Well we hope. We don’t want to hit a wall, so we’ll see what happens,”  Harre said.

The two wins to open up the tournament put Nashville at 2-0 in tournament play and 10-2 overall on the season.

Above: Carson Parker (25) fights off three Ranger defenders in Saturday’s game against Benton.

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