SHELBYVILLE, IL. — Central A&M finally seemed to have CHBC's number this season, beating them by ten earlier in the year and then running up a record of 28-2.
But, on Thursday at the Altamont 1A Sectional Championship game, the Hornets shocked the Raiders, 63-55.
CHBC decided they would try to beat A&M at their own game, run.
"We didn't force it, but I always thought we were faster than them, so we pushed the ball up the court," said CHBC coach Carolyn Wendte. "We ran so much Ava (Paruleski) had cramps in the 2nd quarter and Micah went down with cramps in the 2nd half, but was able to come back."
CHBC and A&M were knotted after the 1st period 14-14. CHBC held a slight, 4-point lead at the break, 29-25.
Then the Raiders did their thing, putting on a 17-11 run in the 3rd and claiming the lead heading into the 4th, 42-40.
It would be a barn-burner in crunch time, but who knew it would the Raiders barn that would incinerate. Jones and the Hornets broke out on a 23-13 run to finish the game and claim the title.
If the IHSA had a better system, the bracketologists would have scheduled this match-up at the state tournament, both teams deserved to be there.
A&M has been a juggernaut all season. CHBC had been to state 2 of the last 3 years, finishing 4th and then 2nd. But a sectional title show down was the best tCHBC and A&M could get. Someone would have to go home.
Few thought A&M would be going home.
"I feel badly for them," said CHBC coach Carolyn Wendte. "They are a great team and the have had a great season. Granted we had too many turnovers, but the kids played their hearts out and overcame the turnovers."
Causing turnovers is A&M's specialty. They are like a school of piranhas, who turn turnovers into scores. There scoring all season had been led by their guards and senior small forward Sarah Bailey.
Even with all-state senior center Micah Jones still playing, CHBC had to replace players from their state runner-up team last year.
Senior guard Ava Paruleski had to take over the point guard position, shake off an early season illness, and still try to score in double figures, utilizing the arc.
Small forward Autumn Riley battled around the paint and also had to play a big part in the scoring. But other inexperienced players would have to step up.
Going into the game conventional wisdom would tell A&M to double team Paruleski and deny 3-pointers and triple team Jones inside.
"They did," said Coach Wendte. "Micah and Ava told the rest of the team, 'Be ready, we're going to get you the ball.' And they knocked down shots."
When Jones cramped up, Wendte looked to the bench and inserted Chandler Ward to shoot the free throws. She did what the rest of the crew needed to do to beat A&M, she took advantage of the opportunity and drained both free throws.
A&M, as well as other teams, have trouble stopping Jones, because of her height, strength and ball-handling ability for a center. Jones led the Hornets with a typical 27-point performance, scoring 13 times from the floor.
Paruleski had 10 points off two triples and 4-of-6 at the line. Riley had nine points with two buckets and 5-of-6 at the line.
The bonus was sophomore forward Jensyn Morrison scoring six points, more than her average, and guard Kacie Hilt scoring six points, more than her average.
A&M, with their depth, had three players in double figures, but, again, no one to match Jones' 27 points.
Gutsy senior forward Sarah Bailey, who has played lights out down the stretch since recovering from an injury, led A&M with 11 points, four from the floor and 3-of-6 at the line.
Freshman speedster Ryan Dooley had 11, all from the floor, including a 3-pointer. Senior guard Allie Heaton who has been the steady hand her whole career, followed with 10 points, three buckets and 4-of-5 at the stripe.
A&M got a balanced 23 points from the rest of the weapons, Taylor Jordan, Rachel Townsend, Genny Rose Stringer, and Taylor Adcock.
CHBC got to the line more, making 15-of-21 (70%), while A&M shot 11-of-16 (69%).
"We both missed free throws," Coach Wendte said. "They missed some early, but then we made some key free throws later on."
CHBC (25-5) moves on to their third super-sectional in four years, for a shot at going back to state. They will play Goreville (31-1), which beat Cairo, 89-28, in the Goreville Sectional for their 3rd straight sectional title.
Altamont 1A Sectional Title
CHBC 63, Central A&M 55
A & M 14-11-17-13--55
CHBC stats: Jones 27 (13 FGs, 1/3 FTs), Paruleski 10 (2-3 pt FGs, 4/6 FTs), Riley 9 (2 FGs, 5/6 FTs), Morrison 6 (3 FGs), Hilt 6 (2 FGs, 2/2 FTs), Kirby Herrmann3 (FG, 1/2 FTs), Ward 2 (2/2 FTs). Team FGs 23. 3-pointers: 2 (Paruleski). Team FTs 15-of-21.
A&M stats: Bailey 11 (4 FGs, 3/6 FTs), Dooley 6 (4-2s, 1-3 pt FGs),Heaton 10 (3 FGs, 4/5 FTs), Jordan 7 (2-2s, 1-3 pt FGs, 0/1 FTs), Adcock 6 (2 FGs, 2/2 FTs), Townsend 6 (2-3 pt FGs), Stringer 4 (FG, 2/2 FTs). Team FGs 20. 3-pointers: 4 (Townsend 2, Dooley, Jordan). Team FTs 11-of-16.