GIBSON CITY -- With a 65-56 win Thursday over Heyworth, the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley girls basketball team has matched their win total from last season.
Last year, the Falcons went 17-13, which at the time was the program's first winning season since 2011-12. Thursday's victory improved GCMS's overall record through the 2018-19 season to 17-4, and its record in the Heart of Illinois Conference to 8-1.
"That's a great accomplishment for this team and these girls," GCMS head coach Keri Dornbusch said. "They've been working and fighting hard. We've got a lot of games to play, and (our win total) is just showing how hard these girls play and work together."
Prior to Thursday's game, GCMS was selected for the second seed in the Heart of Illinois Conference Tournament.
After regular-season games against Cissna Park at home (Saturday, Jan. 12), at Lexington (Monday, Jan. 14) and at home against Deer Creek-Mackinaw (Thursday, Jan. 17), the Falcons will face either El Paso-Gridley or LeRoy in their first game of the tournament at 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21, at Eureka College.
"It's very exciting. I'm very proud of the girls," Dornbusch said. "They worked hard. They deserve that seed. It's exciting for them, and we're looking forward to the challenge of living up to that."
Thursday's game against Heyworth started with a 4-4 tie through the first five minutes as Lena Luebbering and Shae Ruppert each made a basket for the Hornets while Makenzi Bielfeldt made 2-of-4 foul shots and Ryleigh Brown scored two points via an Abby Spiller assist for the Falcons.
"It was definitely a slow start on both ends," Dornbusch said. "I think it works well for our girls when our defense to offense. Defensively, we weren't bad. It just didn't lead to that offense that we're used to. It was a slow start for us. We were missing some wide-open layups and free throws. It gets a little disheartening when you're missing those shots when you should be making them."
Megan Moody made a go-ahead basket for GCMS with three minutes left in the first quarter before Hannah Hathaway drained a 3-pointer and Bielfeldt added a foul shot with 2:07 remaining in the quarter to extend the Falcons' lead to 10-4.
After Raeghan Morefield made a free throw for Heyworth, Bielfeldt drained another 3-pointer. A basket by Shae Ruppert made the score 13-7 as the first quarter came to an end.
Madison Riley made a free throw to start the second-quarter scoring before Luebbering aded a basket to cut the Hornets' deficit to 13-10. From there, however, GCMS went on a 7-0 run.
After Moody made a free throw, she drained a 3-pointer to make the score 17-10. Bielfeldt made 1-of-2 foul shots with 5:56 left in the second quarter before Emily Clinton made two shots from the charity stripe with 5:35 remaining in the quarter to extend the Falcons' lead to 20-10.
Shae Ruppert made a basket for Heyworth before GCMS went on another spurt of eight straight points.
Claire Retherford made a free throw before Hathaway drained a 3-pointer and Bielfeldt and Spiller each made a jump shot to extend the Falcons' advantage to 28-12.
"Once we kind of broke through, it really broke through there for a while. It was a good effort," Dornbusch said. "It was a slow start. It just kind of took a little time to get us going."
Shae Ruppert made a basket Morefield converted on a three-point play with 1:39 left in the second quarter to cut Heyworth's deficit to 28-17. Moody drained two free throws, Hathaway made another trey before a Retherford basket extended GCMS's lead to 35-17.
Claire Post made a basket before Moody and Morefield exchanged buckets to make the halftime score 37-21.
Retherford made two more buckets and Moody added a basket to extend GCMS's lead to 43-21 before Paige Ruppert made a 3-pointer for Heyworth. Bielfeldt scored on an offensive-rebound putback before Luebbering made a basket to make the score 45-26. Bielfeldt made two free throws with 5:22 left in the third quarter before Luebbering made a basket and Bielfeldt scored on an assist from Clinton to extend the Falcons' lead to 49-28.
Shae Ruppert and Moody exchanged baskets before Paige Ruppert made a trey to cut Heyworth's deficit to 51-33. A basket by Brown was followed by another Paige Ruppert 3-pointer that made the score 53-36.
"(Heyworth) got going. They really shot well in the second half," Dornbusch said.
Moody converted on a three-point play with 1:32 left in the third quarter before Shae Ruppert scored on an offensive-rebound putback and Bielfeldt made a basket.
Hannah Warren then drained a 3-pointer to cut Heyworth's deficit to 58-41 as the third quarter came to an end. Shae Ruppert made a basket and Rylee Tompkins made a free throw to make the score 59-43 with 6:09 left in the game.
The Hornets went on a 5-0 run from there as Shae Ruppert scored on a putback and Riley drained a 3-pointer to cut Heyworth's deficit to 59-48.
During the run, Bielfeldt and Moody each missed the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity, including one by Moody after she drew Luebbering's fifth foul with 4:06 remaining in the game.
The Falcons finished the game making 18-of-30 shots from the charity stripe.
"We did see the foul line quite a bit," Dornbusch said. "We were missing some opportunities, but they came around and started relaxing a little bit and starting to get back into the flow of things. In games like that, it’s good to see them power through even when the shots aren’t falling."
After grabbing a defensive rebound, Retherford scored to extend GCMS's lead to 61-48. Moody made two free throws with three minutes left and Spiller added a foul shot with 2:01 remaining in the game to make the score 64-48.
Shae Ruppert made a 3-pointer and Warren made a free throw with 47.1 seconds remaining before Spiller tallied a foul shot to make the score 65-52 with 41.4 seconds left in the game. Baskets by Shae Ruppert and Morefield concluded the scoring at 65-56.
Three Falcons finished the game in double figures as Moody led the team in scoring with 19 points while Bielfeldt scored 14 points and Hathaway tallied all 12 of her points via 3-point shots.
Retherford finished hte game with nine points while Spiller and Brown each had four points, Clinton had two points and Tompkins had one point.
"It’s always good to get multiple people in the scoring column," Dornbusch said. "We've been doing really well about getting six players in the scorebook, and we're also doing a good job of getting multiple people in double figures, and they definitely did that tonight, too."
GCMS 65, Heyworth 56
HEY 7 14 20 15 -- 56
GCMS 13 24 21 7 -- 65
Paige Ruppert 3-0-9, Madison Riley 1-1-4, Reeghan Morefield 3-2-8, Lena Luebbering 4-0-8, Claire Post 1-0-2, Hannah Warren 1-1-4, Shae Ruppert 10-0-21, Courtney Henderson 0-0-0. Totals 23-4-56.
GCMS (17-4, 8-1)
Claire Retherford 4-1-9, Makenzi Bielfeldt 4-6-14, Hannah Hathaway 4-0-12, Rylee Tompkins 0-1-1, Megan Moody 6-8-19, Emily Clinton 0-2-2, Abby Spiller 1-2-4, Jenny Patel 0-0-0, Ryleigh Brown 2-0-4. Totals 21-18-65.
3-pointers -- Heyworth 6 (P. Ruppert 3, Riley, Warren, S. Ruppert). GCMS 5 (Hathaway 4, Moody).
JV -- Heyworth 11, GCMS 6 (shortened game)