NORMAL — Lessons learned against one of the most athletic teams in the state in Quincy Notre Dame could pay off for the Nashville Hornettes in the semifinals of the Class 2A Girls State Basketball Tournament.
The Hornettes (31-2) will play the Walther Lutheran Broncos (26-6) from the Chicago suburb of Melrose Park at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Redbird Arena in Normal.
"I know they are really athletic and they are fast,'' Nashville coach Wayne Harre said. "They do a lot of pressing, different zone presses and things like that. They're a full-court team. We played Quincy (Notre Dame). You know, they're like that.
"We played Quincy (Notre Dame), and I don't know if they can be much more athletic than them.''
The Hornettes lost to Notre Dame 41-36 on Jan. 31 in the Coaches vs. Cancer Shootout at Scottrade Center.
Harre said Walther Lutheran's style also is comparable to some of the more athletic boys teams in the metro-east.
"Cahokia or Madison, that's what you have to compare them to, a boys team that goes and shoots and then goes for the rebound or drives to the basket,'' Harre said. "Maybe Belleville West (girls), but Belleville West is more structured. They have the quickness on the perimeter like I think Walther Lutheran will have.''
All five Broncos starters are members of the girls track and field team that placed second in Class 2A each of the past two seasons.
So the key for the Hornettes, who prefer slowing down the tempo, will be protecting the basketball and limiting turnovers.
"We're going to have to handle their pressure,'' Wayne Harre said. "You know they are going to press us, and they play quite a bit of zone, so we'll have to run some zone offense.''
The Hornettes are making their eighth state tournament appearance in Harre's 13 seasons as coach, but they've never gotten past the semifinals.
Nashville's lone appearance in the title game came in 1990 under coach Mike Taylor when it lost to Teutopolis 62-29.
The Hornettes fell to eventual Class 2A champion Quincy Notre Dame in the semifinals in 2010 and 2011.
"I think we've played pretty well,'' Harre said of his team's state tourney history. "We've just run into some pretty good people. Sometimes you play well and you lose. Sometimes you have to give the other team some credit.''
This year, the Hornettes have a little more offensive firepower than previous years. They've scored 50 or more points in 15 games.
"One thing about it, all five players can score a few points,'' Harre said. "Those other years, sometimes we were limited on who could score. We are a little more balanced than we have been.''
Senior Shaye Harre is the Hornettes' leading scorer and rebounder. She's averaging 12.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
Shaye Harre is a three-sport athlete who also excels in volleyball and softball. She is headed to Southern Illinois University Carbondale on a softball scholarship.
"It takes so much time and effort to play three sports now,'' Wayne Harre said. "Your body never gets a chance to rest. A small school like this, you have to have those kind of people play or your programs aren't going to be very good. Whenever an individual plays three sports, we appreciate it.''
Senior Erica Brown averages 9.2 points and 5.5 rebounds. She's also one of the two best defenders Wayne Harre says he has ever coached, along with 2004 Nashville graduate Krystal Stein.
"Stein wasn't very tall, but I could put her on a post player,'' Wayne Harre said. "Those two would rate up right together, there is no question about that.''
Junior Shawn Rennergarbe averages nine points and 4.7 rebounds per game. She also has a team-leading 99 assists.
The standout golfer has dialed up her game during the postseason.
"She's really playing with a lot of confidence right now,'' Wayne Harre said. "She's really stepped it up. She's been really focused since the playoffs started, and she's really given us a big lift.
"We really ask her to do a lot. She's been bringing the ball up a lot.''
Sophomore point guard Jordi Harre is the Hornettes' primary ballhandler. Jordi Harre has gotten stronger, and that's enabled her to better handle pressure defenses this season.
"Her freshman year she was getting bumped off the ball quite a bit,'' Wayne Harre said of his daughter. "Now she is stronger and she can see the floor and she can throw the ball at the floor a little bit.
"I think that's been a big key for us. Last year, we didn't have anybody who could do that.''
Rounding out the starting lineup is junior guard Hannah Yung, who averages 5.1 points per game. She has connected on 37 of her 115 (32 percent) 3-point attempts this season.
"She shoots pretty well from the 3 percentage-wise,'' Wayne Harre said. "It's Jordi first and then she's next. She's in the 30s, and that's pretty good. She can hit them. She just hasn't shot that many.''
The Broncos are making their fourth state tournament appearance. They placed third in Class A in 1983 under coach Roger Kruel and fourth in 2007 under current coach Todd Fisher.
The Broncos have two players averaging in double figures in scoring.
Isimeme Edeko, a 5-foot-9 senior forward, averages 14.7 points, while Dana Turner, a 5-7 junior guard, averages 11 points per game.
Edeko also is the Broncos' leading rebounder with an average of 11.6 boards per game.
Twin sisters Anna (8.5 points per game) and Arra Strong (62 assists) are members of a 400-meter relay that placed second last year at the Class 2A state track and field meet.
The Broncos played defending Class 3A champion Lombard Montini close twice, losing 41-37 on Dec. 11 and 60-51 on Jan. 31.
From a local perspective, the Broncos also posted a 47-30 win over Metro-East Lutheran on Jan. 21.
If the No. 4-ranked Hornettes win, they'll play either No. 1-ranked St. Thomas More (31-2) or No. 5 El Paso-Gridley (29-1) at 8:15 p.m. Saturday in the Class 2A state championship game.
The third-place game is slated for 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.