State Champions: Nashville nabs 2A title for the first time in 44 years

In a postseason punctuated by clutch performances and comebacks, it was only fitting that the state title would come down to a defensive move at the right place and at the right time.

Saxton Hoepker blocked the last attempt to go-ahead shot from Monticello’s Ben Cresap, and both teams scrambled for the ball. But when time expired, the Nashville Hornets would take home the Class 2A state championship trophy, 32-31, Saturday at the State Farm Center in Champaign.

Both the Hornets and the Sages were evenly matched in the first half, swapping leads with Nashville ultimately trailing by a point, 10-11. Monticello started to heat up in the third and the fourth, extending their lead to 31-25 with just 2:30 minutes left in the game.

Nolan Heggemeier hit a monster three-pointer to cut it half. The Hornets inched closer with Kolten Gajewski hitting a layup to come back within a possession, 30-31, with 38 seconds remaining.

Hoepker would rebound the ball on one end and would drive it to the hoop to put Nashville back on top. Twenty one seconds, the Sages attempted to put the game in the freezer but the block heard ’round the State Farm Center occurred. And the crowd in blue erupted to celebrate the Hornets’ first state title since 1978.

Nashville earned a second place 2A state trophy in 2019. For several of the senior players, Saturday’s game was also the second state game of this academic year. This fall, the Nashville Hornets football team won second place this fall.

Head Coach Patrick Weathers, who is in his first year at the helm, credited the school administration for their support and also his coaching staff, who are made up of his father Brad Weathers and several Hornet alumni. He also said how thankful he was for the community support he has received.

“This is for anyone who has ever worn a Hornet uniform,” Weathers said at a pep rally Saturday. “So much Nashville pride. Thank you so much.”

Gajewski ended his Hornet career with a double-double, 14 points and 11 rebounds.

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