Abingdon loses to Mount Carroll

by John Ring

Mark Sandstrom faced the dilemma that many basketball coaches do this time of year.

Sandstrom’s Abingdon Commandos had just made some history. They knocked off YorkWood for a Sectional Title and it was the first one claimed by the Commandos since Hoovervilles starting springing up across the Nation in 1930.

But the Commandos were going up against 2nd ranked Mt. Carroll in the Super Sectional. The Hawks, 29-1 on the season, had just knocked off arch rival Rock Falls in the Sectionals and were led by Jeremy Haas, a 6’5" superstar who averaged over 23 points a game.

And so the question facing Sandstrom was this— do you focus your attention on Haas and not let him go nuts or do you play them straight up and try to shut down their other weapons on offense?

"We wanted to take away Haas," said Sandstrom.

Abingdon did just that. The problem was that Mt. Carroll’s role players— Jordan Delp, Colin Bausman and Devon Schneider— combined to hit five three-point shots in the first quarter alone and the Hawks jumped out to a 23-9 first quarter lead.

And despite some late Abingdon charges, the lead held up and the Hawks won by a 59-48 score. But that first quarter— no, make that the first five minutes of the game— were crucial.

"Our guards just came out and hit everything," said Haas. "They were on fire."

Has that happened a lot this season, Jeremy?

"Well no, we don’t exactly start out that way every game," admitted Haas with a smile.

"They just came out and hit everything right and left," said Abingdon senior Josh Pierce, who had 9 points and 5 rebounds for the Commandos. "We couldn’t hit our shots and they hit everything."

But instead of reeling, the Commandos fought back. The tempo slowed, the teams struggled to a 10-10 tie in the second period and when Adam Ray scored on a driving layup at the buzzer ending the third period, Mt. Carroll led by just a 43-34 score.

"We were optimistic," said Sandstrom, whose team has made some good second half runs this season.

But then Matt Malone and Colt Jones (11 points) missed shots, Abingdon’s foul problems got worse (the Hawks were in the bonus with 6:55 left in the game) and Haas was a horse.

Between Haas’ scoring (22 points) and 6’7" Brett Yochem’s domination of the boards (10 rebounds), Mt. Carroll pulled away again and clinched the game.

"Jeremy always delivers for us," said Delp, a junior guard who added 13 points.. "Always."

A musclebound 6’6" senior, Haas answered virtually every Abingdon run. With the lead cut to 41-31 and just 1:11 left in the third quarter, Haas hit a jump shot. When Abingdon threatened to cut the nine-point lead in the 4th quarter, Haas scored on a putback bank shot.

"He’s as good as advertised," said Pierce. "By far, they were the best team that we played this year. More power to them. I hope they win it all."

The Hawks felt the same way towards Abingdon.

"Beating Rock Falls took the monkey off our backs," said Delp "but at this level, this late in the tournament, you have to respect everybody and play hard and we had to tonight because this was a team that wouldn’t quit."