GCMS boys basketball loses 47-45 to Nashville in IHSA Class 2A state semifinal

PEORIA -- Two streaks came to an end in Friday's IHSA Class 2A state semifinal game between Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley and Nashville.
 
Going into the fourth quarter, GCMS was on pace to not only have its 31-game winning streak snapped with a 29-23 deficit, but was also on pace to continue Nashville's 16-game streak of holding opponents to under 40 points.
 
The good news for the Falcons was that they scored 22 points in the final quarter to snap Nashville's streak. The bad news was that it was not enough as the top-ranked Hornets scored 18 fourth-quarter points of their own to end third-ranked GCMS's winning streak via a 47-45 score -- a streak that followed an undefeated state-championship run in football for a majority of players who played on Friday for the Falcons, and resulted in the school's first-ever final four appearance in boys basketball.
 
"It was emotional. These guys poured their heart and soul into it," GCMS head coach Ryan Tompkins said about the mood in the locker room after the game. 
 
"It just speaks to the fact that they do enjoy playing as a unit. They were looking forward to that last opportunity to get out there and play for a state championship, so it was a emotional, somber locker room because they care. They really enjoy playing basketball and playing with each other. They showed that tonight. They showed a lot of heart and a lot of guts and we're proud of the effort they gave."
 
***
With 3:54 left in the game, Bryce Barnes made a jump shot that cut a GCMS deficit to 35-33. After Nashville's Carson Parker missed a layup on the Hornets' ensuing possession, Barnes was called for an offensive foul.
 
It was Barnes' fifth foul, forcing him out of the game.
 
Prior to picking up his fifth foul, Barnes played all 29 of the previous minutes of the game despite picking up his with 4:24 left in the second quarter, his third foul with 5:39 left in the third quarter and his fourth with 7:05 left in the fourth quarter.
 
"There's a reason for that," Tompkins said after the game. 
 
Not only was Barnes the Falcons' second-leading scorer and rebounder and team leader in assists, but he proved his versatility on defense by holding second-team Illinois Basketball Coaches Association member Joel Niermann of Pleasant Plains to two points in super-sectionals and stole the ball from Bloomington Central Catholic's Luke Yoder -- a first-team IBCA all-state player -- on a key play in the sectional finals. 
 
Barnes finished Friday game with four points along with six rebounds and three assists. 
 
"We saw how well he can guard. You see what he can do defensively. Offensively, he had the ball in his hands a lot down the stretch for us and made big plays for us. Not having him down the stretch was tough, but probably the bigger part is he plays so well that, despite having foul trouble the whole game, he's able to get it to where he was able to play and not come off the floor. 
 
"It's just unfortuate (that he fouled out), but you want him out there. Unfortunately, we didn't have him out there, but the other guys came in and kept clawing and kept fighting."
 
Terry Pelczynski made a 3-pointer 18 seconds after Barnes' fifth foul to extend Nashville's lead to 38-33, but Connor Birky hit a trey of his own with 2:44 left in the game to cut GCMS's deficit back to two points at 38-36.
 
"They've been together and playing varsity for a long time. They just didn't lose their composure," Tompkins said. "We've had games when we've been down in different junctures, and numerous people say they just don't lose their composure, and you saw that again tonight. That's why they are going to do great things from this point on because they've got a good head on their shoulders. It was an emotional locker room because they're competitors. You don't go almost 13 months without losing without having a type of spirit and cohesiveness."
 
Birky tweaked an ankle during GCMS's super-sectional game and required seven stitches for his chin after the 2A Tolono Unity Sectional semifinal game against Tuscola and gaining a black eye in the sectional title game against Bloomington Central Catholic. Despite his injuries, Birky finished the game with eight points -- on 3-for-9 shooting, including 2-for-6 from beyond the arc -- along with two rebounds and one assist.
 
"The ankle feels fine," Birky said. "In the past couple of days, I've just been icing it constantly. It helped a lot."
 
Bryson Bultman made a layup with 2:11 remaining to extend Nashville's lead to 40-36. Bultman would finish the game with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Bultman and GCMS's Ryland Holt ate dinner together a little while prior to Friday's game.
 
While Holt signed his letter of intent to play Division II basketball for Minnesota State-Mankato, Bultman is set to play ball for McKendree.
 
"He's a really good player," Holt said. "He's going to a Division II school for a reason. He's going to be a good kid to play against, hopefully, at the next level." 
 
Holt made a free throw 2:20 to cut GCMS's deficit to 40-37 before being called for his fourth foul while going for a steal 20 seconds later.
 
"That team is a really good team. We knew it was going to be a dogfight," Holt said. "We had taken a lot of pride in being physical, and we knew they were going to be one of the most physical teams in this tournament.That's probably why there were so many fouls, but we knew that's how it was and how the game's going to be, so we tried to beat a really good team. We just came up short."
 
Kelton Harre made two free throws via Holt's foul to extend the Hornets' lead to 42-37. Nathan Garard drew Harre's fifth foul with 1:36 remaining, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1. With 1:21 left in the game, Carson Parker made 1-of-2 free-throw opportunities to make the score 43-37.
 
Holt drew Tanner Bergmann's fifth foul with 1:06 remaining and made two free throws to cut the Falcons' deficit to 43-39.
 
Bultman made two free throws with 56 seconds left in the game. After Birky missed a couple of layup attempts, and Pelczynski drew a foul on Caleb Bleich on the defensive rebound, Pelczynski made 1-of-2 shots from the charity stripe with 44 seconds remaining to extend Nashville's lead to 46-39.
 
Holt grabbed an offensive rebound on a missed 3-point shot attempt by Birky. After Holt missed a layup attempt, Ben Freehill grabbed another offensive rebound before a missed 3-pointer by Cade Elliott went out of bounds off a Nashville player.
 
Nathan Garard then made a 3-pointer to cut GCMS's deficit to 46-42 with 19 seconds left. Parker then made 1-of-2 foul shots with 14 seconds remaining before Holt drained a 3-pointer with nine seconds left in the game to cut GCMS's deficit to 47-45.
 
The Hornets ran eight seconds off the block before Parker drew Bleich's fifth foul and missed two free throws with 0.1 seconds remaining.
 
Nashville would finish the game making 17-of-31 shots from the charity stripe, compared to a 7-of-9 effort by GCMS.
 
"It was a grind-out game. There was no question about that. We were just fortunate to win," Nashville head coach Wayne Harre said. "We probably could have made it a lot easier for us if we made some free throws. To be honest, we've shot them pretty well all season long. It surprised me that we missed them, but those things happen.
 
"We're looking to kick and drive and find the right spots to do it. They're great athletes. They're strong, and it's hard to finish against them. That's going to happen. They're behind, and they're going to foul more, so that happens too in a game."
 
After Bultman missed two free throws with 7:05 remaining in the game, Freehill stole the ball from Parker and made a 3-pointer to cut GCMS's deficit to 29-26.
 
"We've been down many games this year and just found a way to fight back," said Freehill, who made 4-of-8 field-goal attempts to finish with 10 points. "We just had to stick together and keep coming every possession."
 
Kelton Harre and Tanner Bergmann each made two free throws to extend Nashville's lead to 33-26 with 5:57 left in the game. 
 
Holt made two free throws with 5:23 remaiing before Bultman made a layup 12 seconds later. Following two missed free throws by Parker, Birky drained a 3-pointer with 4:08 left in the game to cut GCMS's deficit to 35-31.
 
"That was a great job by our guys. We had a lot of fight," Tompkins said. "You come here, there's not much wiggle room because we've got a lot of good basketball teams. These are the best teams in the state of Illinois, and to fight and claw back and be down double figures and come back and get it down to a possession and give us a chance in the fourth quarter is a testament to how these guys work and how well they play together and how hard they fight.
 
"We've been in these situations. Our schedule has prepared us for moments like this. We had those moments. You don't win 31 games in a row without making big plays. They're No. 1 for a reason. We were ranked where we were for a reason. We came in with the record that we had for a reason. We didn't win the game, which is just frustrating if you're an athlete or a coach or with anything you do, but there's nothing to be frustrated about because we're so proud of the effort these guys gave."
 
***
The Falcons made 5-of-9 shots from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter en route to making 6-of-21 3-point shot attempts for the game. GCMS's lone trey through the first three quarters was made by Freehill to give his team a 3-0 lead with 7:17 left in the first quarter.
 
"That's been the way we play defense. We're trying not to give it up the dribble drive. If they kick it out and make it, sometimes they're going to make it, and they did make a few of them tonight," Wayne Harre said.
 
Bultman rebounded a missed 3-point attempt by Bergmann before Parker drew a foul and made two free throws with 6:28 left in the first quarter. Holt then rebounded his own shot and scored on the putback to extend GCMS's lead to 5-2.
 
Holt would finish the game with 18 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field and 7-of-8 shooting from the charity stripe, along with 12 rebounds.
 
"I thought we did a pretty good job of stopping Holt and then taking other players out of the game by playing good defense and then doubling down on Holt and preventing them from getting easy buckets," Bultman said.
 
"It just can't take one guy," Wayne Harre added. "I think it's a combination. We knew he was one of the keys to try to get him stopped, but I thought we did a good job of helping and then trying to recover. There's a fine line -- you have to get in there, and then you have to get back out on your man, and I thought these guys did a tremendous job. They've done that all year." 
 
After Bultman made a layup with 5:10 left in the first quarter, Bergmann made a 3-pointer with 4:08 remaining in the first quarter to give Nashville a 7-5 lead.
 
Birky made a game-tying jump shot with 3:16 left in the first quarter before Parker grabbed an offensive rebound with 2:52 remaining in the quarter and made a jump shot four seconds later to give the Hornets a 9-7 lead.
 
Parker finished the game with a team-high 17 points while grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out two assists.
 
"I just tried to get my teammates involved," Parker said. "It's a team game -- one person can't do it all."
 
Freehill countered a Bultman jumper wit ha layup that made the score 11-9 as the first quarter came to an end. 
 
Lane Short came off the bench to score his lone two points via game-tying jump shot 14 seconds into the second quarter. After Bultman made a free throw and Freehill made a go-ahead layup to give GCMS a 13-12 left with 6:51 left in the second quarter, Nashville went on an 8-0 run.
 
Bultman started the run with a go-ahead layup with 6:35 left in the second quarter. After a free throw and a layup by Parker, Bergmann and Parker each tallied a layup to extend the Hornets' lead to 21-13 with 2:52 left in the second quarter.
 
Holt then converted a three-point play with 1:14 left in the second quarter to cut GCMS's lead to 21-16. Nashville held the ball for the remaining time of the second quarter before Tristen Hercules missed a 3-pointer with three seconds remaining in the second quarter.
 
***
After Bergmann assisted Parker on a layup 32 seconds into the second half, Holt made a layup before converting on another three-point play with 6:09 left in the third quarter to cut GCMS's deficit to 23-21.
 
Parker then made two free throws with 5:39 remaining in the third quarter and a layup with 4:55 left in the quarter to extend Nashville's lead to 27-21.
 
Both teams would be held scoreless for more than two minutes before Barnes made a layup with 2:32 remaining in the third quarter. With six seconds left in the quarter, Bultman assisted a Parker layup that made the score 29-23.
 
The Falcons finished the game making 16-of-44 shots from the field after shooting 10-for-30 from the field through the first three quarters.
 
"I thought our defense was solid," Wayne Harre said. "They are a very good team. You can tell that whole group has won a lot of games in football and basketball. That's a quality team with quality athletes, a quality coach and quality program. We were just fortunate to get out with a win."
 
"It was two good defensive teams going against two teams that are very capable offensively. Our guys really started to find some gaps and knock some shots down and get some spacing and create and kind of get a rhythm offensively," Tompkins added. "We had a lot of high-energy plays, a lot of gutty plays, especially through our press, and we were able to get some turnovers, but the clock ran out on us."
 
***
The Falcons will face Chicago Corliss (20-9) -- which lost 83-50 to Chicago Orr in its semifinal game -- in the third-place game at 5:30 p.m. today.
 
"The best part about this is we knew we had two more days with them," Tompkins said. "We've still got a day ahead with this tremendous group of guys. They showed why they earned their ticket down here to Peoria. We said from the get-go to get ready for the next one tomorrow. We have to have that same mindset. We did not come to Peoria to play the third-place game. None of the four teams did, so what is really comes down to is who's going to come out the most prepared and who's going to be able to hit the reset button sooner and get ready for a game. 
 
"These guys are aware of this. They know what's going on. There are only two teams who finish the season with a win. These guys are aware of that, so that's the opportunity that we have in front of us. As seniors, they still have a chance to end their career in a positive way."
 
IHSA Class 2A
STATE FINAL TOURNAMENT
At Peoria (Carver Arena)
Nashville 47, GCMS 45
GCMS 9   7    7   22   -- 45
NASH 11 10  8   18   -- 47
GCMS (32-3)
Caleb Bleich 0-6 0-0 0, Ryland Holt 5-10 7-8 18, Bryce Barnes 2-7 0-0 4, Ben Freehill 4-8 0-0 10, Connor Birky 3-9 0-0 8, Lane Short 1-1 0-0 2, Nathan Garard 1-2 0-1 3, Cade Elliott 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-44 7-9 45.
Nashville (35-2)
Tanner Bergmann 2-3 2-2 7, Tristen Hercules 0-2 0-0 0, Kelton Harre 0-1 6-6 6, Bryson Bultman 5-9 3-9 13, Carson Parker 6-12 5-12 17, Terry Pelczynski 1-3 1-2 4, Matt Anderson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-30 17-31 47.
3-pointers -- GCMS 6-21 (Freehill 2-5, Birky 2-6, Holt 1-2, Garard 1-2). Nashville 2-7 (Bergmann 1-2, Pelczynski 1-2).
Rebounds -- GCMS 30 (Holt 12, Barnes 6, Bleich 3, Freehill 3, Birky 2, Short 2). Nashville 22 (Parker 9, Bultman 7, Harre 3).
Assists -- GCMS 7 (Barnes 3, Freehill 2). Nashville 6 (Bultman 3, Parker 2).
Steals -- GCMS 3 (Freehill 2). Nashville 5 (Bultman 2).
Blocks -- Nashville 1 (Bultman).

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