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GIBSON CITY – The Falcons had one last chance to get a huge monkey off their backs before going into Heart of Illinois Conference Tournament action.
Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley went into Thursday’s HOIC matchup against Deer Creek-Mackinaw with an 18-game losing streak. The Falcons stopped the slide with a 45-31 home victory.
“That’s been a long time coming,” GCMS head coach Kyle Bielfeldt said Thursday. “You’ve got to give the girls credit for continuing to plug through – coming into practice every day and working hard. Coming out here and finally getting the win – we talked about it before the game about how it’s going to get the monkey off our backs. We’re all pretty excited right now.”
Bielfeldt said Thursday’s victory could give the Falcons some confidence going into the HOIC Tournament despite being the No. 13 – and final – seed.
“Hopefully, it builds some confidence,” Bielfeldt said. “Hopefully, we come into the game with the attitude of ‘Hey, why not us?’ We are the No. 13 seed going into the tournament, but you know what? When the ball’s tipped, seeds go out the window and it’s just a basketball game after that. We’re just going to go out Saturday and see what happens.”
Katie Massey, who was absent through a majority of GCMS’s losing streak with a leg injury, scored the game’s opening bucket to give her team a 2-0 lead. That basket would be the start of a 14-2 run with which the Falcons started the game.
Massey scored eight points during that run en route to finishing with a game-high 13 points.
“She’s pretty much up to 100 percent,” Bielfeldt said. “She still limps around with it. She’s still struggling through it. I wouldn’t say she’s 100 percent, but she’s getting close. She’s good to have back on the floor.”
Kayla O’Neal and LaToya Baillie each scored a field goal during that run as well. O’Neal and Baillie finished the game with six and five points, respectively. Emily Elder scored five of her points in the second quarter.
Together with Massey, the four players equal a solid inside game for GCMS, according to Bielfeldt.
“(Massey) gives us a new dynamic with her and Kayla (O’Neal) inside, and then you bring LaToya (Baillie) in there, you’ve got Emily (Elder) banging around in there – so the inside game’s really drastically improved for us,” Bielfeldt said.
Massey was GCMS’s leading scorer during its previous two games as well, scoring 15 points in a Thursday, Jan. 10 loss to Heyworth and 11 in a losing effort Monday against Lexington. She said her health could still get better.
“I think I could still improve a little bit,” Massey said. “Right now, I’m probably about 80 percent, but I’m getting there. It’s good as long as I have it taped, I’m good to go. It’s not really a problem anymore.”
Annie Schultz – who had six points – ended the first-quarter scoring with a 3-pointer to make the score 17-5 in favor of GCMS heading into the second quarter. She also hit a trey during a 10-5 second-quarter run that extended the Falcons’ lead to 27-10 before they went into halftime with a 29-15 advantage.
Dee-Mack would open the second half with a 9-3 run that cut its deficit to 32-24. That was as narrow a deficit as the Chiefs were able to achieve throughout the rest of the game.
Taylor Boma (5 points) and Jessica Meyer (3 points) each nailed a 3-pointer for GCMS, which ended the third quarter with a 40-24 lead.
Despite only five points, the Falcons (2-18, 1-9) were only outscored by two points in the fourth quarter. With the exception of the second quarter, in which the Chiefs put up 10 points, GCMS yielded a mere single-digit point total to Dee-Mack in each quarter.
“I thought our effort defensively was very good,” Bielfeldt said. “We fought through a lot of screens tonight. That was a very solid screening team. We were able to get through them and contest shots. That’s what I always tell them – contest every shot and you’re going to decrease their percentages.”
The end result was a sense of relief felt by Massey via GCMS’s second victory of the season.
“(I feel) really good,” Massey said. “It’s a relief, I guess.”
The Falcons will open up its run through the HOIC Tournament at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, facing No. 4 Ridgeview in Colfax.
“Hopefully, we can get in there and get some wins out of it,” Massey said.