Playing for keeps: MSJH's 8th-grade girls' hoopers become regional champs

It's not just the seventh-grade girls' basketball that has been so successful on the hardwood. The Mahomet-Seymour eighth-grade girls' basketball team beat Champaign Jefferson 36-18 on Friday to win the IESA Class 4A Regional Championship.

The Bulldogs held Jefferson scoreless in the first quarter and led 16-1 at halftime.

"They look really good as a team and play really good defense," seventh-grade coach Jimmy Lanphear said. "The defensive effort that they had in the regional championship was incredible."

The Bulldogs are 18-4 on the season, and at one point had a 13-game winning streak.

"That team is just so talented and so deep," Lanphear said. "Last year, we felt like we could have made a run to state and we fell short. They've been so much more cohesive as a team.

"Girls know their roles and they perform them well. Everyone has stepped up individually."

M-S played Effingham on Wednesday in the sectional. Results weren't available at press time.

With a win, the Bulldogs would advance to the Elite Eight and play at Macon Meridian High School on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Lanphear has gelled with eighth-grade coach Brian Kusnerick, and the duo has done a fantastic job leading the Lady Bulldogs to big-time success.

Combined, the MSJHS Lady Bulldogs have won 35 games this season. The seventh-graders will finish no worse than fourth in Class 4A. The eighth-graders will have a chance to make it to state this week.

"I didn't know Brian before last year," Lanphear said. "We connected during the summer before the season and have really hit it off since. I've learned a ton from him, he's a great coach.

"It's been a big group effort. It's been a really good cohesion. We talk a lot. We talk scouting reports, bounce ideas off each other. It's been a really good working relationship, and I think we have a really good friendship as well."

Mahomet-Seymour girls' basketball hasn't won a regional championship at the high school level since 2005. Lanphear believes his young Lady Bulldogs could be the up-and-coming group that snaps that drought.

"I'm really excited to see what it looks like in three years when these eighth-grade girls, seventh-grade girls and even some of the ninth-grade girls can combine together," Lanphear said. "I think they have a real chance to do some damage in high school. They've gotten better and better over the last few years and I think they'll keep that up. We kind of have a really good tradition going right now."

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