Nashville beats DePaul Prep in 2 OT, heads to Class 2A championship

Nashville senior Kolten Gajewski had never dunked in a game. But there he was, on a fastbreak in double-overtime with 10 seconds to play, all alone with the chance to finally throw one down.

SHARE Nashville beats DePaul Prep in 2 OT, heads to Class 2A championship
Nashville’s Saxton Hoepker (22) drives the ball down the court past DePaul Prep’s Dylan Arnett (30).

Nashville’s Saxton Hoepker (22) drives the ball down the court past DePaul Prep’s Dylan Arnett (30).

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

CHAMPAIGN, IL–Nashville senior Kolten Gajewski had never dunked in a game. But there he was, on a fastbreak in double-overtime with 10 seconds to play, all alone with the chance to finally throw one down.

He slammed it home.

“To do it on a stage like this was awesome,” Gajewski said. “I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”

Gajewski heard his coaches pleading for him to stop, pull the ball out and set up the offense. But he wasn’t afraid that he would miss the crucial bucket.

“I was,” Hornets coach Patrick Weathers said.

It provided an exclamation point on a game that desperately needed one. Nashville beat DePaul Prep 31-24 in double-overtime. The victory sends the Hornets into Saturday’s Class 2A state championship game against Monticello.

Nashville has proclaimed its style of basketball to be “winning ugly.” The Hornets focus on defense and slow the tempo down on offense.

That’s the same formula DePaul Prep prefers, so no one expected the game to be a shootout. But it was one of the lowest-scoring games in the history of the Illinois High School Association’s state tournament.

Several records were broken:

-Fewest points for a team in a Class 2A state tournament game, previously held by 2011 Pittsfield (35).

-Fewest points for a team in any class in the four-class era, previously held by 2011 Woodlawn (27).

-Fewest points in a game for both teams combined in a Class 2A state tournament game, previously held by 2010 Breese Central and Manual (77).

-Fewest field goals made in a game by both teams in the four-class era, previously held by 2011 Deer Creek and Woodlawn (22). DePaul Prep and Nashville combined for 21 field goals in the double-overtime game.

Saxton Hoepker led Nashville (29-4) with 13 points and 10 rebounds. He scored the Hornets’ final 10 points in regulation, leading them back from a six-point deficit.

DePaul Prep (26-6) didn’t score a field goal for the final 14 minutes of play. The Rams made one free throw in each overtime.

“It just shows us that we can do anything in any situation,” Gajewski said. “We are all comfortable enough to bear down. It shows the family aspect of our team and what we can do when we work hard.”

Nashville’s Isaac Turner (34) reacts after winning the game against DePaul Prep.

Nashville’s Isaac Turner (34) reacts after winning the game against DePaul Prep.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Nashville never subbed. The five starters, Hoepker, Gajewski, Carter Schoenherr, Nolan Heggemeier, and Isaac Turner, played all 40 minutes.

“That’s probably the most athletic team we’ve seen all year,” Nashville coach Patrick Weathers said. “These guys got enough rebounds and enough free throws to get the job done.”

Dylan Arnett, a Wisconsin-Milwaukee recruit, led DePaul Prep with eight points. Trevon Thomas and Alex Gutierrez each scored six points.

“[Tom Kleinschmidt] is a great coach,” Weathers said. “They execute very differently from a lot of teams [in Chicago]. That helped us. We’re not built for a track meet or anything like that. When they want to keep the game in the 30’s and 40’s and you don’t have to score 50 or 60 to win, that’s an advantage for us.”

The Rams shot 10 of 38 from the field and 0-for-10 from three. They will play Rockridge in the third-place game late Thursday night.

“At the end there were three or four loose balls that we didn’t come up with and two offensive rebounds we didn’t come up with,” Kleinschmidt said. “They were quicker to the ball late and they made plays. It was a battle. All the credit goes to Nashville.”

Nashville vs. DePaul Prep box score

The Latest
The 21-year-old went into the water with friends about 8:10 p.m. in the 9800 block of South Walton Drive, Chicago police said.
Cubs right-hander Marcus Stroman held the Diamondbacks to two earned runs in five innings.
With crime among the top concerns of a vocal contingent of neighbors vehemently opposed to the development, the $2 million is meant to bolster security around the temporary site at a River North intersection that already has entrenched crime issues, opposing Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) has said.
A U.S. Census Bureau report released Thursday shows rather than losing population, Illinois gained more than 250,000 residents between 2010 and 2020. That’s roughly the equivalent of not counting anyone in Aurora — Illinois’ second largest city — and the entire city of Decatur.
For the first time this season, host Alison Victoria takes on clients and helps hem build their dream home on a tight budget.