NORMAL — The old saying about defense winning championships rang true for the Nashville Hornettes.
The Hornettes rode their defense to a 50-29 win over the No. 1-ranked St. Thomas More Sabers from Champaign 42-39 Saturday in the championship game of the Class 2A Girls State Basketball Tournament.
The Hornettes (33-2) limited the Sabers (32-3) to a season-low point total in claiming their first state title in girls basketball.
"We just try to guard people and we just try not to give easy baskets," Nashville coach Wayne Harre said. "We also try not to take bad shots. We try to make sure every possession means something. We try to do things with a purpose. If you get teams to buy into that, you can be pretty successful."
The Hornettes allowed an average of 28 points per game in their seven postseason contests.
Harre said his players had the ability to effectively apply the knowledge gained from a scouting report on the court.
"They're very intelligent, they understand what the opposing players' strength is and they could take that player's strong point away," Harre said. "If you take a player's strong point away, they really struggle."
No St. Thomas More player reached double figures in scoring. Tori McCoy, a 6-foot-4 freshman All-Stater, was held to nine points.
Shawn Rennergarbe, who stands 5-foot-11, drew the primary defensive assignment on McCoy.
"I've never guarded a 6-4 post player like her before, and hopefully I will never have to do it again," Rennergarbe said. "You know what, you have to do what you have to do to win, and it worked out. I had a lot of help from the other girls, Shaye (Harre) and Erica (Brown)."
Offensively, the Hornettes were led by Brown, who scored 14 points.
Brown, a senior, picked up the scoring load after Shaye Harre got in early foul trouble.
"She steps up in the final game of her career," Wayne Harre said. "A great way to go out."
Brown said the experience she's gained over the course of her career gave her the confidence to pick up her game when the Hornettes needed it.
"I felt more confidence out there this year, I felt stronger out there this year," Brown said. "I felt better out there, and I think our whole team did, too. I think that's what the difference was."
Guard Hannah Yung also gave the Hornettes a big boost by hitting three straight 3-pointers in a span of 1 minute, 5 seconds at the start of the third quarter.
"I was just in the moment, and I kind of just kept going," Yung said "Coach (Doug) Althoff has been working with me, and all of the coaches will stay after practice to help me improve my shots."
Yung's 3-point spree enabled the Hornettes to go up 30-15.
"She was on fire, and without that, I don't know how it would have turned out," Rennergarbe said.
Yung has the green light to shoot whenever opposing defenses sag off her trying to take away the Hornettes' inside game.
"Like today, I don't think they respected me," Yung said. "When I hit those three shots, they started guarding me more."
Nashville High is enjoying a special era in its girls sports program. The softball team won the Class 2A state championship last June and the golf team placed fourth in Class A behind Rennergarbe, who was the runner-up for medalist honors.
Shaye Harre, who also is a member of the softball team, said of winning two state titles: "They're both pretty sweet."
Shaye Harre said the Hornettes entered the state tournament feeling like they had some unfinished business after stumbling in the semifinals during her freshman and sophomore seasons.
"That first game was the most important game because we'd never won that game when I was here," Shaye Harre said of the Hornettes' 50-29 win over (Melrose Park) Walther Lutheran. "Just trying to break through that first game was a big step in the process."
That process ended with the Hornettes capping their 10th appearance in the state tournament with a state title.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.