GIBSON CITY - Despite a key injury this season, along with a few early deficits, the GCMS eighth grade girls basketball team overcame obstacles and carved out an 18-3 record and regional championship win last week.

While impressive, it’s just the kind of thing you come to expect from a team who has been there before.

With a number of returning members from last year’s crew that placed third at state, the talent level was enough to wager a shot at another regional win.

And that previous success can certainly be credited for some of the mental toughness that was needed in key moments that led to where they are now.

Part way through the year, the Falcons lost their best defensive player, returning starter Emma Kurtenbach, who suffered a concussion against Prairie Central.

The team was trailing and pulled off a come-from-behind victory to set the tone for the ensuing Twin County Conference Tournament the following week.

GCMS once again defeated Prairie Central in the tournament championship behind a breakout game from Autumn Carter, who was called upon to step in for Kurtenbach.

“The girls responded to the changes in the lineup very well, and girls who hadn’t gotten a whole lot of playing time in the past stepped up and made some great contributions,” GCMS coach Taylor Rubarts said. “When our guards got in foul trouble, (Autumn) stepped up and ever since has given us great minutes.”

After defeating a very strong, physical Olympia squad 39-30 in the regional semi-finals, the Falcons were one win away from hosting a sectional matchup thanks to a stout defensive stance.

“The girls responded to (Olympia’s) physicality well,” Rubarts said. “Our defense was strong against them, and that was the game changer.”

Another strong stance would be needed a couple days later, when a third quarter run led to a comeback regional win.

Heyworth, their regional championship foe, boasted a solid post presense and used it to jump out to 8-5 and 14-12 leads after the first and second quarters, respectively, before the Falcons turned on the jets.

With a little halftime adjustment, GCMS allowed zero third quarter field goals and got a few quick layups to outscore the Hornets 15-1 in the third.

“We came out a little flat in the first half which caused us to get down. We made adjustments at halftime and came out much more aggressive on the defensive and offensive end,” Rubarts said. “The girls responded really well to the pressure of being down at half. It was a total team effort.”

Behind 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting from seventh grader Kadyn Barnes, GCMS ran away with the 43-31 win to secure a trip to sectionals.

Rubarts said her first regional win as a coach was very exciting, and her girls worked extremely hard to deserve the win.

“This group of girls is such a special group of young ladies,” Rubarts said. “They work so hard and are passionate about the game, which makes coaching them that much more fun.”

The win set them up to host Eureka for a sectional showdown on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., where the girls will hope to stretch their home winning streak another game.

"We haven't lost a home game yet this season, and we don't want to start now," Rubarts said. "Eureka is very a very strong team, so the girls have to come out very focused. We have been struggling to play all four quarters of basketball. We have been having one quarter where we let up, and that can't happen in this sectional game. So the stress of this game is playing four solid quarters of basketball. The girls are very excited to have another home game.”

The Falcons’ three losses came at the hands of PBL, Ridgeview and Lexington, which Rubarts considered “great learning experiences.”

“We can look back on those games and find ways the girls could get better in high competition games,” she said.

Scoreboard

Regional Semifinal - GCMS 39 Olympia 30

Madi Eberle -10 points

Maci Bielfeldt - 9 points, 11 rebounds

Hannah Hathaway - 7 points

Emily Clinton - 5 points

Rylee Tompkins - 4 points

Abby Spiller - 2 points

Autumn Carter - 2 points

Rylee Tompkins - 7 rebounds

Regional Championship - GCMS 43 Heyworth 31

Kadyn Barnes - 12 points

Madi Eberle - 8 points

Hannah Hathaway - 7 points

Maci Bielfeldt - 6 points and 7 rebounds

Emily Clinton - 5 points

Abby Spiller - 4 points

Rylee Tompkins - 1 point

Outbrain