Patience pays off for Patriots vs. Raiders

Photos by Nic Antaya/The Herald
The Heritage Hills girls basketball team celebrates after Heritage Hills assistant coach Tara Lytton announced they would have pizza after Saturday's tournament after Thursday's girls basketball game in Huntingburg. The team reached their goal of having 13 or less turnovers. Heritage Hills defeated Southridge 52-32. 

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — Southridge and Heritage Hills were two teams going in opposite directions as the teams entered their Thursday night conference matchup. The Raiders seemed to finally find some measure of sustained success after winning three of their last four games, all against conference opponents. Conversely, the Patriots had found themselves on a bit of a skid, losing three of their last four before getting back into the win column with a victory over Forest Park.

So Thursday’s game not only had PAC implications, but could kickstart or halt any momentum being built by both teams. n the end, it was the Patriots who found themselves trending in the positive direction, as they defeated the Raiders 52-32 at Memorial Gym.

Patriots (8-3, 2-2) coach Kim Brown thought the girls did what they needed to do in order to win and keep up their progression forward. She wanted to use this game to get some different players added to the rotation and try to lighten the load a bit for the team’s main contributors.

“I thought we did all right,” she said. “We tried a little different mix trying to get some people breaks. We’ve been relying on five girls for a lot of the season, and we’re trying to mix that up and give some more girls playing time and experience.”

Southridge (3-9, 3-2) was able to get going quickly, thanks to a couple of penetrating layups from sophomore guard Monica Steckler and a big block from freshman forward Myah Montgomery, which turned into two free throws after she was fouled on the fast break. Senior guard Mady Neukam added her own basket, which she scored over a pair of Patriots defenders, to give the Raiders an early 8-1 edge.

But then Rebekah Gordon, who was celebrating a birthday that evening, started to go to work. The sophomore forward rattled off eight quick points for Heritage Hills to take the game’s lead, getting it done both inside and from the perimeter with an open three-pointer. By the time the first quarter drew to a close, Gordon had powered the Patriots to a slim 9-8 lead.

Southridge's Myah Montgomery drives to the net during Thursday's girls basketball game in Huntingburg. Heritage Hills defeated Southridge 52-32.

Gordon continued the trend in the second quarter by making a floater through traffic and hitting her free throw to complete the three-point play. Steckler and Neukam did what they could to keep attacking the basket for Southridge, but Gordon kept answering each Raider score. The shots also started falling for the other Pats players, as senior guard Claire Heckel and freshman guard Hadley Lytton both hit three-pointers to contribute to a 20-point second quarter en route to a 29-14 lead at halftime.

The third quarter was a bit of a slow down for the Patriots, as the Raiders mounted their push to get back into the game. They stayed true to their approach of using their motions and cutters to create driving lanes to the basket for Steckler, Neukam and Montgomery. They were able to find good looks at the basket throughout the third quarter, but every time they started to build some momentum, the Pats got a timely shot from Gordon, Heckel or Lytton to keep Heritage Hills in front of the surge. The Raiders did manage to outscore the Pats 12-8 in the third period, but it appeared they used up all of their energy after that push. Heritage Hills outscored Southridge 15-6 the final quarter, and held on to win their second straight conference game.

Gordon paced the Pats with 23 points, Heckel finished with 11 and Lytton had nine points in the win. Steckler finished with 14 to lead Southridge. Neukam had 10, and Montgomery had eight points.

“Our offense was pretty good. We passed the ball around and got a lot of movement in,” Gordon said. “Our defense was really good. We were trying to make sure we deny the ball, and I think we did really well.”

Brown was happy to see her players use a lot more ball movement to facilitate their offense, instead of players trying to play one-on-one and force bad shots like they were doing during the three-game skid.

“We were trying to force too much, we weren’t patient,” she said. “I thought we did much better at trusting each other tonight. I thought we did a good job of spreading the ball around tonight.”

Heritage Hills' Nevah Barnett, left, and Rebekah Gordon reach for a loose ball during Thursday's girls basketball game in Huntingburg.

Steve Winkler filled in at the helm for Southridge Thursday night while head coach Steve Rust was attending the graduation of his son, Nick. He commended the Patriots for their win, and thought the Raiders should have responded better when Heritage Hills began their initial surge.

“I think the Patriots came out ready to play and had a great game plan against us,” Winkler said. “We did not handle the situation as well as we thought we could have.”

The Raiders will have a few weeks off before their next game against the Washington Hatchets on Dec. 29, and Winkler believes that period will only serve the team well as they work to get back on the winning path.

“We’ll have lots of practices, so we’ll get back to building our toolbox,” he said. “We need to work on our basketball IQ on certain things. We can take some bigger steps over this break, and come into the second part of the season and continue to be competitive.”

 




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