Enthusiastic Pats open season with rout

Photos by Nic Antaya/The Herald
Heritage Hills' Blake Sisley throws down one of his two dunks in Saturday's 71-43 win for the Patriots over North Harrison in their season opener in Lincoln City. Saturday night was a lot of fun for the Patriots as they showed their athleticism with high-flying jams such as this one as well as efficient defense, fastbreak opportunities and a strong performance from the bench. For more photos from the game, click here.


LINCOLN CITY — It’s no secret that the Heritage Hills boys basketball team was rather anxious to get back on the court after their first round exit to Evansville Memorial in last year’s sectional.

After an offseason full of workouts, practices and scrimmages, the Pats had been waiting patiently to tip-off the 2018 regular season in front of their home faithful against North Harrison. And following their 71-43 win over the Cougars on Saturday night, one thing became clear almost immediately — that was fun, wasn’t it?

“It’s so much easier when it’s fun, it’s almost just like playing out in the backyard,” said junior guard Simon Scherry who scored 15 points in the victory. “Everybody wants each other to be successful — it’s not about you, it’s about how well everyone else does and man, that’s huge.”

For the majority of the game, it was as if the Patriots could do no wrong. Three-pointers seemed to fall at ease, strong defensive plays such as steals and deflections led to fastbreak opportunities on the other end and several players threw down big-time jams that riled up the crowd.

Sure, it was only the first game of the season and there’s still several areas of improvement the team wants to work on but Heritage Hills head coach Nate Hawkins admits starting the season off with a victory like the one on Saturday night can go a long way.

“We want to build a fun and positive atmosphere around here and I think that’s what we’ve been able to do,” Hawkins said. “To be able to come out and win by 28 points against a quality opponent, it gives our fans something to be excited about and it’s just all because of the work these kids put in during the offseason.”

It took the Patriots (1-0) a little bit of time to get things going as they started out a little slow in the first quarter. After jumping out to an 8-2 lead almost immediately, the Cougars (1-1) bounced right back to pull back within a point at the 1:52 mark before Heritage Hills’ senior Dylan Begle hit a shot shortly before the end of the quarter to put the Pats up by three, 12-9.

The second quarter is where Heritage Hills started to take control and Begle was one of the main contributors. After North Harrison’s Langdon Hatton made an and-one to tie the game at 12-12 early in the seconds quarter, the Patriots went on a 15-0 run and Begle scored six points in that span and also had a big steal that led to a dunk by Blake Sisley on the other end. That play forced a timeout by North Harrison and saw Heritage Hills end up with a 27-12 lead in almost the blink of an eye. Heritage Hills held a 33-19 advantage at the halftime break.

Begle, who finished the game with a career-high 13 points, has embraced the role of sixth man for the Patriots as their bench depth looks to be a key factor to their success this season.

“I just want to go in and make an impact however I can,” Begle said. “I want to play good minutes and bring energy to the team whether it’s from a board or a steal — I just want to make a positive impact.”

Hawkins added: “Whether you’re the first guy that’s announced in the starting lineup or the 11th guy to come in the game, we expect you to make some type of positive contribution. I told everybody before the season that our depth was one area where we’re better this year — last year, we were maybe only six or seven players deep but now I look down the line and there’s so many players I want to be able to give more playing time to.”

Heritage Hills' Grant Lashley, left, Cayden Kratzer and Mark Doyle celebrate during Saturday's victory for the Patriots. There was enthusiasm all over the place on Saturday night whether it was with the athleticism shown on the court or the support that came from the Pats bench unit. For more photos from the game, click here.

The second half saw basically every single player on the Patriots roster provide some spark or impact as Heritage Hills outscored North Harrison 38-22 to cruise to the 71-43 victory.

There were the usual suspects making plays such as Sisley throwing down his second dunk of the game and grabbing several of his team-high 10 rebounds, Scherry absolutely toying a North Harrison defender before driving past him for a flashy layup and Murray Becher racking up 21 points including his first career in-game dunk in the fourth quarter. There was also the spark provided by bench players such as Begle, Carson Leibering knocking down a late three-point basket and Cayden Kratzer getting his first varsity points.

When the Patriots are able to receive some sort of help from every single player on the squad, it makes things that much easier for everyone to do their own job.

“It’s awesome to be able to trust your guys all the way down the line,” Scherry said. “When we’re able to have some guys come in and just provide us some lifts, it’s huge.”

Even though it’s just one game, it’s clear to see the Patriots are going to be a fun group to watch this season — whether it’s the athleticism they show with their slam dunks or the excitement and pure joy they have just from connecting on plays with one another.

“Sometimes the gym can get a little quiet but when you have plays like (the dunks), it just really gets the energy up,” Scherry said.

Begle added: “We’re all best buds around here, we’ve all known each other since like grade school and have played with each other forever and it’s all just connecting now.”

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