INA - It will take a while before the sting of Saturday's state championship game loss fades, but there is absolutely no reason for Carrier Mills-Stonefort eighth-graders to hang their heads after dropping a hard-fought 57-46 decision at the hands of undefeated Bartelso's Braves Saturday afternoon at Rend Lake College.
The loss was the Wildcats' first this season. They still finish with a sparkling 30-1 record, best in school history.
The difference in the game was the first few minutes of the contest. The Braves led 6-0 before CMSF could even set up its offense for the first time.
A couple of bad turnovers and a player technical foul led to the slow start. Bartelso increased its lead to 8-0 and then 13-2 not even halfway through the first period. The Braves finished the period in charge at 22-8.
The Wildcats closed the gap twice to five points in the second quarter, but could never get any closer. Bartelso led 33-26 at the half and 44-32 after three periods.
CMSF head coach Allen Jackson said the start of the game was indeed the key.
"That and the fact that we didn't reach their shooters," he said.
The Braves knocked down five shots from beyond the three-point arc.
"They never cooled off," he said. "It seemed like they never missed one."
Jackson said the Braves deserve credit.
"They're a good ballclub. They just kept hitting shots," he said.
Regarding his team's amazing run this season, Jackson was impressed.
"This season means everything to me. We never really had a close game til we came up here," he said. "And we never had to play from behind until tonight."
Jackson said he knows his players are hurting.
"I'm more hurting for the kids than me, but I'll take 30-1 every year," he said. "It's such a good group of kids. I love every one of them. They're a very tight-knit group that did a lot of things together. We all love each other, which makes this season that much more enjoyable."
Top scorer for the Wildcats Saturday was Caden VanMeter with 19 points. He knocked down two triples, four conventional field goals and five free throws.
Aiden Rollins followed with 18 points. Michael Godsey tacked on four. Colton Mitchell added a triple and Zavier Rollins had two.
The Braves were led by Jacob Patton's 14 points. Trey Gerdes notched 13. Bartelso drained 21-of-28 free throws.