Patriots enter postseason with extra motivationFebruary 24, 2019
By JONATHAN SAXON
There isn’t much to complain about when it comes to this season of basketball for the Class 3A No. 4 Heritage Hills Patriots.
They’ve posted another 20-win season, have won their last 19 games, and their only blemish came against Washington at the Hatchet House after they scored 101 points the night before. It’s been a season full of highs for the Patriots (22-1), something they were confident they could accomplish early on.
“We knew the core group was coming back, we’ve all grew up together and we knew we had something special,” said junior guard Simon Scherry. “Once we started playing the first few games we realized it could be something special.”
“We knew this year was going to be special right from the start,” added sophomore center Blake Sisley. “From the first day of practice we’ve been working hard because we didn’t want to fall short of our goals. So far we haven’t and we’re just looking to keep pushing forward.”
The Patriots will do battle with Evansville Bosse (16-7) right away in the first round of the tournament on Tuesday at Boonville — a game that may arguably be one of the best in the state.
The team was in this same position last season coming into sectional with a lot of momentum before suffering a first-round exit against Evansville Memorial.
Heritage Hills head coach Nate Hawkins said last year’s result motivated them to come back better this season and he feels that if the players hone it and take it a game at a time they can go forward and produce a different result in this next go around of the tournament.
“Having to go through that was not a taste they enjoyed,” Hawkins said.
“It feels like these guys are really motivated to make that postseason march. Now it’s time to take it to the next level and ramp it up. And the next step for us is a sectional championship. We know it’s not going to be easy, but at the same time we know it’s an attainable goal.”
While the offense has been impressive for the Patriots this year, Hawkins insists that the team doesn’t look to outscore people when they play games.
Instead, their first goal is in stopping other teams, which they accomplish by using their length and speed to implement a full court scheme that creates pressure and deflections which turns into transition offense.
“There’s a reason that they say defense wins championships, and we’ve hung our hat on that,” he said. “If we’re going to make a run in that sectional as demanding as it is, it’s going to start on the defensive end.”
“Our defense is really what holds our team together,” said junior guard Murray Becher. “Our goal is to hold teams under 50 points, and when you do that you have a great chance at winning the game.”
But the team is also a handful when they bring the ball up and set up their half court offense.
With so many capable playmakers and shooters covering the perimeter, as well as having a talented big like Sisley to play through, when they get the ball moving it’s a tough assignment for any team because the plays can happen from anywhere.
“Everybody gets open shots and it opens up everything,” said Scherry. “Getting it into Blake, he kicks it out and we just make the extra pass all the way around. It gets everybody flowing into the offense.”
Another factor that causes issues for other teams is the depth the Patriots boast on their bench.
With guys like senior guard Carson Leibering, senior big Grahm Turner, and junior forward Dylan Begle (who has found himself in the starting lineup following an injury to senior guard Cade Jones).
The Patriots have the ability to simply overwhelm teams with wave after wave of bodies that Hawkins feels confident in leaving on the floor for long stretches at a time to maintain and extend leads while the starters get a rest.
“Coach just wants us to bring it every night with energy,” said Leibering, who has made several key three-pointers off the bench for the Pats this season. “It’s always great with coach having confidence in us. It just helps us go out there and play loose. There’s no pressure on us because we know that coach is confident in us, so we just go out there and play our best.”
All the pieces seem to be in order as the Patriots look to start the tournament against Bosse on Tuesday.
Hawkins said it’s been a joy to watch the team grow and reach the point where they are playing their best basketball in late February, but now it’s time to take their regular season work use it as a foundation to take the next step in the postseason.
“This has been a really special group and it’s been a great regular season,” said Hawkins. “It’s just a group of winners, they play together and have a lot of fun. I feel like We’ve set ourselves up to have the opportunity to make a deep postseason run.”
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