NORMAL — The Nashville Hornettes finally are bringing home the big prize.
Erica Brown had 14 points and Shawn Rennergarbe added 11 points as the Hornettes knocked off the No. 1-ranked (Champaign) St. Thomas More Sabers 42-29 on Saturday night in the championship game of the Class 2A Girls State Basketball Tournament.
The Hornettes (33-2) captured their first state championship in girls basketball. Their best finish in their previous nine trips to the state tournament was second place in Class A in 1990 under coach Mike Taylor.
"I put on some weight, but I feel like I lost 50 pounds right now,'' said Nashville coach Wayne Harre, who brushed the monkey of having never won a state title despite seven previous trips to the finals off his back. "I feel light as a feather. It's a great feeling. You always dream of getting on that podium and winning a state title.
"To get a chance to do it and to get the chance to share it with a great team and the great assistants I've got. ... It's just a great time right now.''
The Sabers ended their season at 32-3. They had a 13-game winning streak snapped.
The Sabers were led by 6-foot-4 freshman Tori McCoy with nine points and eight rebounds.
"That's about all we can do,'' Wayne Harre said of his defense, which limited the Sabers to 12-for-51 (23.5 percent) shooting, including 1-for-18 from behind the 3-point stripe. "That's about as low as we could hold them. It wasn't just one person because we got into a little foul trouble and we had to mix and match, just trying to get different people on different people so we wouldn't foul out. People just kept stepping up. Just a great effort.''
The Hornettes will be welcomed home with a parade at 2 p.m. followed by an assembly at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Nashville High School.
With Shaye Harre in foul trouble in the first half, Brown, a senior, stepped up her game and scored 10 of her points before halftime.
"We were looking for her to carry us in a game, and by God she carried us to a state title,'' Wayne Harre said of Brown.
"This is my last game, and I knew I had to go out big,'' Brown said. "This is it for me, and I wanted to go out remembering something.''
The Hornettes also got nine points from Hannah Yung on three straight 3-pointers at the start of the second half and nine rebounds from Shaye Harre. Rennergarbe got most of her points at the free-throw line, going 9-for-10 on foul shots.
"This is the best thing that ever happened to me,'' Rennergarbe said. "All I wanted was a state championship, and these are the girls that I wanted to do it with.''
McCoy went to the bench after picking up her second foul with 3:43 left in the first quarter. Brown sank the two free throws resulting from McCoy's second foul to put the Hornettes ahead 4-2.
The Hornettes outscored the Sabers 8-2 over the rest of the first quarter, including the final six points of the period.
Jordi Harre hit a 3-pointer during the surge, which gave the Hornettes a 12-4 lead.
McCoy scored the first three points of the second quarter, but Brown answered with a couple of jumpers to put the Hornettes ahead 16-7.
However, the Hornettes found themselves with foul trouble after Shaye Harre picked up her third foul with 5:06 left in the second quarter.
McCoy was charged with her third foul with 2:55 left in the second quarter.
With Shaye Harre and McCoy both on the bench, Rennergarbe went 5-for-6 at the free-throw line to enable the Hornettes to go up 21-10.
St. Thomas More's Erica Wallen sank two free throws to trim the Hornettes' lead to 21-12.
The Hornettes shot 46 percent (6-for-13) in the first half, while the Sabers shot 16 percent (4-for-25) in the first half.
Yung drilled three 3-pointers at the start of the second half as the Hornettes extended their lead to 30-15.
The Sabers closed the gap to 32-23 on a jumper by McCoy in the closing seconds of the third quarter. McCoy had picked up her fourth foul about 30 seconds earlier.
Brown and Jordi Harre each sank two free throws early in the fourth quarter to push the Hornettes' lead back to 13 points.
Rennergarbe made four straight free throws to give the Hornettes a 42-27 cushion with 1:32 to go.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.