NORMAL — Walther Lutheran wanted to turn the game into a track meet, but the Nashville Hornettes slowed the Broncos to a crawl.
Shaye Harre scored 19 points and the Hornettes gave up only two fast-break baskets as they defeated the Broncos 50-29 Friday in the semifinals of the Class 2A Girls State Basketball Tournament.
"It was huge," Nashville coach Wayne Harre said of controlling the tempo against the Broncos. "We talked about trying to slow their fast-break down. I think we gave up maybe one fast-break basket where we forgot to run back.
"Against teams like Walther Lutheran, you have to run back to the basket otherwise you have no chance. The other thing they do so well is rebound. I thought we controlled the boards, which was huge for us."
Though it was a slim margin, the Hornettes still outrebounded the Broncos 34-33.
The Hornettes (32-2) advance to the championship game for the first time in their eight state tournament appearances under Wayne Harre.
They'll play the No. 1-ranked St. Thomas More Sabres (32-2) at 8:15 p.m. Saturday in the title game. The Sabres, who are from Champaign, beat the El Paso-Gridley Titans 62-48 Friday.
"It's always good to finally make it," Wayne Harre said. "I've been here 13 years, and to finally get a chance to play for a state title feels really great. It feels great, but we have to battle tomorrow and try to bring that state title to Nashville."
Walther Lutheran, which dropped to 26-7, got 16 points from guard Dana Turner.
The Broncos shot only 19 percent (10-for-55) from the field, including 1-for-13 from 3-point range.
"I thought Nashville played a great game," said Walter Lutheran coach Todd Fisher, whose school is located in Melrose Park. "I thought Nashville came out and did what they needed to do to win. Hat's off to them completely."
All five starters for the Broncos are members of the school's track and field team that placed second in Class 2A each of the past two seasons, but they were never able to capitalize on their speed.
"Nashville did a great job sending two kids back, taking away our transition," Fisher said. "So if and when we did have a chance to push the ball, they always had two girls back.
"He (Wayne Harre) knew we had a quick team. It was very effective."
The Hornettes also got 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists from Shawn Rennergarbe, eight points, six rebounds and four assists from Jordi Harre and seven points and six rebounds from Erica Brown.
Senior Emily Gill provided a big lift off the bench by hitting back-to-back 3-pointers late in the first quarter. Gill's marksmanship helped the Hornettes take an 11-4 lead.
"She didn't play basketball last year, and she decided to come out this year, which was tremendous for us," Wayne Harre said of Gill. "I don't think we'd be here without her."
Gill entered the game when Hannah Yung left the game with an injury. Yung later returned to action.
"With Hannah being hurt, I have to step up," Gill said. "Sometimes I think, 'Oh, I don't know whether I should shoot or not.' Sometimes he says, 'Let it fly.' That second shot, I was like, 'I don't know if I should shoot this or not.'"
The Hornettes let it fly eight times from 3-point range in the first half, hitting five of them.
The Hornettes led 19-5 after Jordi Harre hit back-to-back 3s, and they maintained a 23-9 advantage after a layup by Brown with 42 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Broncos got a 3-pointer from Turner at the buzzer ending the first half to trim the Hornettes' lead to 23-12.
Shaye Harre helped the Hornettes protect their lead by scoring 15 of her points in the second half.
"The first half I was missing 2-footers and the second half I was like, 'I just have to concentrate and hit my shots. Just relax and play ball,'" Shaye Harre said. "I think I just let the nerves get the best of me in the first half."
Shaye Harre had eight points -- all from close range -- in the third quarter as the Hornettes went up 35-20.
The Broncos got as close as 13 points after two free throws by MaShayla Kirksy with 5:45 left, but Shaye Harre answered with a 3 that caused the Hornettes cheering section to erupt.
The Hornettes' fans later sang "Happy Birthday" to Shaye Harre, who turned 18 on Friday.
"I guess a better one would be a state championship," Shaye Harre said of celebrating her birthday with a win in the semifinals of the state tournament.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.