FT. BRANCH, Ind. — It was an evening of girls basketball so utterly amazing that 4,000 fans shoehorned into Titan Fieldhouse at Gibson Southern may never see the likes of it again.
The only thing lacking was a Lady Aces victory.
Tyra Buss has rewritten the Mt. Carmel record books countless times in her illustrious prep career. She did again Saturday in the championship of the Toyota Teamwork Classic, but the one mark that still eluded her was finally reeled in with two state’s worth of adoring fans along for the ride.
Buss’ first two points of the night — on free throws less than two minutes into the championship game against Princeton — tied the Illinois state scoring record of 4,031 points. She didn’t share the spotlight with Olney’s Brittany Johnson, who had held the mark since 2007, for long.
Seconds later, Tyra dribbled through the baseline, set up beyond the arc line and drilled her most historic 3-point basket yet. At that moment — 6:12 p.m. on Dec. 28, 2013 — Illinois had a new all-time scoring queen, a 5-foot-7 dynamo from Mt. Carmel.
The game was stopped for a brief ceremony as Buss, the reigning Illinois Ms. Basketball, received a standing ovation from the crowd, with Hoosier fans just as loud, assured in the knowledge that she will take her talents to Indiana University next fall.
“It really means a lot, with the community congratulating me all day,” said Buss of the record. “Winning means a lot to me, so I’m kind of heartbroken right now, but the individual accomplishment is very honorable.”
Tyra’s last points of the night put the wraps on an incredible 66-point performance, smashing the single-game record of 60 she had set just 24 hours prior in the pool play finale against Gibson Southern. That was the seventh-highest point total ever by an Illinois prep female.
“She was just going nuts that first half,” said Mt,. Carmel coach Tim Willis of Buss, who had 36 points in the first half.
Amazing? We’re just getting started.
Princeton’s Jackie Young, a sophomore who has embarked on a record hunt all her own, crossed the 1,000-point mark in the first half. The 6-footer, who has had college scholarship offers waiting for her since her eighth-grade year, finished with 39 points.
But neither Buss or Young, with their prodigious talent, were factors in an amazing finish to the game itself.
That moment belonged to Princeton’s Kelsey Kolb-Blume, who tried to steal the show. She did steal the game away from Mt. Carmel with five straight free throws with 3.8 seconds left that gave the undefeated Lady Tigers an improbable 84-82 triumph and the title.
Mt. Carmel led 82-79 when Kolb-Blume was fouled in the corner trying to launch a game-tying 3-point field goal with 3.8 seconds to go. After hitting only three of five at the line earlier, she calmly hit all three free throws then stayed at the line to add two more on a technical foul called on the Lady
“After making the first three, I felt a little more relaxed, but I was still nervous,” said Kolb-Blume, a 5-foot-6 junior.
Princeton got the ball and Kolb-Blume was fouled immediately. This time, however, she missed both free throws, allowing Mt. Carmel a chance to force an overtime. Buss only had time for a 45-foot heave at the horn, but it fell short of the mark and Princeton could celebrate its’ second Toyota title in three years.
“It was a great basketball game,” said Mt. Carmel coach Tim Willis. “Absolutely a wonderful atmosphere. It went down to the last possession, that’s all you’re asking for in a game like this. Unfortunately, we were on the short end of it this time.”
Video replays indicate that in the noise and frenzy of the final seconds, Aces players may have thought the game was over, with the ball being thrown into the air in apparent celebration, prompting the technical foul. Officials told reporters after the game that is what they understood happened as well.
Hannah Brewer finished with 22 points for Princeton (12-0), with Kolb-Blume accounting for 12.
Buss almost didn’t need Saturday’s championship game to set the state scoring record. She came within two points of the mark on Friday.
The 60 points she scored in a 96-79 victory over Gibson Southern was her latest single-game record at the time. In the process, the team total of 96 set a single-game mark, and the Lady Aces third-quarter blitz of 43 points is also a new record.
Willis said he was unaware of how close Buss was to the record when he pulled her out of the game in the fourth quarter - but he knew she was close.
“We don’t keep track on the bench,” Willis said. “You could hear the crowd buzz so you knew she was close. But at the same time she was taking a lot of hits, and you’ve got to look at the bigger picture.
“If nothing else, Gibson Southern ought to be happy. They’ll have a huge crowd (Saturday) night.”
Which they most certainly did.
The Lady Aces didn’t have answer for Gibson Southern’s Hannah Cosby, who scored 33 points, but they didn’t need one. In the third quarter, the Aces simply overwhelmed the host Titans with points, 43 in all. Buss scored 27 in the frame.
Reagan Keepes finished with 13 points, including a trio of 3-pointers.
NOTES: Buss, at her current scoring pace of 47.4 points per game, could finish as high as second in the all-time national scoring race, according to National Federation of High School listings at nfhs.org. She is currently sixth.