What's the expression – 'keepin' up with the Joneses …'
Saturday, at the SIJHSAA Class L Girls' State Basketball Championship Game at Rend Lake College, Ina, despite an undefeated record, Carterville couldn't keep up with the Joneses, or for that matter, the Carders, the Burgesses, the Eatons, the Wellers, the Leibs, or any of the other Lady Pups of Floyd Henson Junior High School, of Flora.
And in the end, it was the Lady Pups, who weren't even the top seed at their Regional, holding aloft the state championship trophy via a thrilling, last second win, 34-31 over Carterville.
“State Champion. It has a nice ring to it and it feels as good as it sounds,” said FHJHS Head Basketball Coach Greg Schafer.
Schafer added. “I told them (the Lady Pups) all week, after we beat Carlyle, and this morning before the game, Carterville is a good team, they haven't lost all year – let's put one on the other side of the dash when it's over.”
After a back-and-forth first quarter, marked by several turnovers both by the Lady Pups and Cubs – it was a tie game at 7-7, before FHJHS pulled away to lead 14-9 by halftime.
On a rebound bucket by Crimson Jones, the Lady Pups advantage reached 10 points, 19-9 at 3:31 of the third quarter.
However, just when the Flora fans began to breathe easy – Carterville, coached by Flora native Andy Harrell, made their move. And with both Jones and Jessica Eaton picking up their fourth personal-fouls and on the bench – the Lady Cubs tied the game at 19-19 after three quarters.
“At the beginning of the fourth quarter, we put Crimson and Jessica back in,” Schafer said. “We told them that they had to play the smartest they have ever played, and you can't foul out. They both played the entire fourth quarter and didn't foul. That was a key.”
After a couple of ties and lead-changes, Carterville took a 31-30 edge with less than 30 seconds left in the game.
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But the Lady Pups wouldn't quit.
Jones went coast-to-coast and hit with 13 seconds left to put Floyd Henson back on top 32-31.
But Carterville still had 12 seconds to go for the win. However, Allison Carder would have nothing to do with that. The diminutive Lady Pup guard made the steal of her basketball career, in back-court, and went in for the lay-up that put FHJHS up by three-points with five-seconds left – and sealed the win.
“What do you say about her,” Schafer said of Carder. “With her – it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. She looks like a chiwawa, but plays like a pit bull. She picked that girl's pocket and made that lay-up, and I remember thinking – we're going to be the State Champs.”
Keeping the Lady Pups in it early, Carder scored eight of her game-high 13 points in the first half. Down the stretch, she hit twice from the floor and 1-of-2 free-throws in the fourth quarter.
Despite second-half foul trouble, Jones also scored 13 points in the game.
READ THE FULL STORY IN THE TUESDAY, JAN. 31 ADVOCATE-PRESS