Daily Union Sports Editor

Cowden-Herrick 8th grade girls are going to the Big Dance. The Hornets (17-5) went to St. Anthony on Wednesday night and rode a furious fourth quarter explosion to the St. Anthony 8-2A Sectional Championship, beating the host Bullpups, 28-23.

The balanced Hornet attack was too much for the St. Anthony’s top scorer and her crew. Emily Wheeler and Katlynn Kersey led C-H with seven points each, followed by Marissa Klee with six points and Mackenzie Morrison and 7th grader Micah Jones with four points each. St. Anthony’s Lena Grunloh had a game-high 11 points, followed by Naomi Gray with seven, Sami Boggs with four and Katie Bishop with one.

St. Anthony got an early cushion, running out a 9-4 lead and extended their lead to eight points at the break, 14-6. Cowden-Herrick started to rev their engines in the third, cutting the lead by a couple of points, then put the pedal to the metal in crunch time to blow St. Anthony’s doors off with a 16-5 run and leaving the Bullpups in their dust, as they sped away to the state tournament.

The start of the game didn’t suggest there would be a Hornet celebration at the end of the day.

Grunloh scored 7-of-9 St. Anthony points in the first, including a three-point play, while Cowden-Herrick got just two solo buckets from Klee and Morrison.

The Hornet offense was even less effective in the second, as they got just one bucket Kersey. St. Anthony fluffed their cushion in the second with solo baskets from Grunloh and Gray and 1-of-3 foul shooting from Bishop. St. A enjoyed an 8-point lead and were ready to make hotel reservations in Champaign.

However, the Hornets started to gain some kind of Space Jam momentum in the locker room and emerged with improved defense and gaining the bump that gives offense. Downhill point guard Emily Wheeler finally got on the board, Morrison scored again and Kersey was perfect at the free throw line. St. Anthony tried, but failed to match the Hornets in the period. The Bullpups got two buckets, but missed their both of their free throw attempts.

Cowden-Herrick was still down six to start the fourth period, 18-12. However, that quickly changed. Wheeler got to the line and made 1-of-2 free throws, then scored two more times from the floor. Angular 7th grader Micah Jones got on the board and scored twice. Klee scored twice and Kersey made a two-pointer and then 1-of-2 free throws. The Hornets more than doubled-up their score for the first three quarters in the last 6:00.

St. Anthony’s lead couldn’t stand up in the wake of the Hornet swarm. The Bullpups got just one bucket in crunch time. They did go to the free throw line three times, but made just 3-of-6. Grunloh missed both free throws on her first trip. The Hornets erased a 6-point deficit and then won by six, as they exploded for the 16-5 game-ending, sectional championship winning, state tournament reservation run.

The 8-2A State Tournament will be hosted by the High School of St. Thomas More at 3901 N. Mattis Avenue in Champaign, beginning tomorrow, Saturday, December 8. Cowden-Herrick (17-5) is scheduled to play Nokomis (16-8) at 2:30 p.m., Saturday. Nokomis defeated Carrollton 17-14 to win the Pawnee Sectional. If Cowden-Herrick beats Nokomis, the Hornets will play in a state semifinal at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. The state championship game will be played at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 13.

Cowden-Herrick 28, St. Anthony 23

C-H 4-2-6-16—28

ST A 9-5-4-5—23

C-H stats: Wheeler 7 (3 FG’s, 1/2 FT’s), Kersey 7 (2 FG’s, 3/4 FT’s), Klee 6 (3 FG’s), Morrison 4 (2 FG’s), Jones 4 (2 FG’s). Team FG’s 12. Team FT’s 4-of-6.

St. A stats: Grunloh 11 (4 FG’s, 3/7 FT’s), Gray 7 (3 FG’s, 1/3 FT’s), Boggs 4 (2 FG’s), Bishop 1 (1/3 FT’s). Team FG’s 9. Team FT’s 5-of-13.

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