Patriots hold off late Ranger rally to end skid

Photos by Nic Antaya/The Herald
Heritage Hills' Hadley Lytton dives for the ball during Thursday's girls basketball game in Lincoln City. Aided by an earlier 21-0 run that stretched from late in the first quarter through the entire second quarter, the Patriots held off a late 12-0 run by the Rangers for a 45-36 victory. Lytton, a freshman, led all scorers with 22 points. For more photos from the game, click here.

By HENDRIX MAGLEY
hmagley@dcherald.com

LINCOLN CITY — Basketball is often a game of runs and it’s safe to say that Thursday night’s girls basketball duel between Pocket Athletic Conference foes Heritage Hills and Forest Park was a prime example.

Both teams had impressive runs of 21-0 and 12-0 but it turns out that the bigger run ended up being too much to overcome.

The Patriots run of 21 straight points from late in the first quarter through the second quarter and an abundance of Ranger turnovers helped push Heritage Hills to a 45-36 victory to end their skid of three straight losses.

“That was probably the best part of the game, honestly,” said Heritage Hills head coach Kim Brown on the Pats 21-0 run that kept the Rangers scoreless in the second quarter. “That second quarter was huge for us because Rebekah (Gordon) was on the bench with foul trouble and we had some kids step up for us. We did a good job of moving the ball, reading the passing lane and (we) got some early buckets.”

Forest Park head coach Tony Hasenour added: “Turnovers killed us tonight. You can’t overcome a 21-0 run with turnovers on the road against a team like Heritage Hills.”

The first quarter started out rather even with Forest Park gaining the first advantage thanks to some points from junior forward Faith Zazzetti and freshman guard Ali Welp. The Rangers pushed their lead to 10-4 early with an and-one bucket from junior Kenlee Gehlhausen with 2:23 left in the first quarter but that would be the last bucket the Rangers scored for awhile — until the second half, in fact.

The Rangers (3-6, 2-3) ended the quarter with a big and-one bucket from freshman guard/forward Hadley Lytton and shots from junior guard Brianna Quinn and sophomore guard Avery Neff to take an 11-10 lead into the second quarter.

Forest Park begun to struggle with handling the ball in the third quarter as they committed 10 turnovers in the third quarter. Meanwhile, the Patriots (7-4, 1-2) were continuing to hit their shots. Lytton scored seven points in the quarter while Neff, senior guard Claire Heckel and sophomore guard Nevah Barnett also got in on the scoring action.

What was the biggest key for the Pats during the run?

“Our defense, of course,” said Lytton, who led the Patriots with 22 points. “It’s our main point and it’s what we focus on in practice. We want to make sure we don’t foul and that we stay in control.”

While Forest Park was able to get back on the board in the thirdquarter, Heritage Hills still held a slight advantage outscoring the Rangers 14-12. Welp scored the first few shots of the quarter for Forest Park but then the Pats started looking to Gordon in the post where she got four quick points.

While Heritage Hills’ lead looked solid heading into the fourth quarter (39-22), Forest Park wasn’t about to just go away quietly. After Welp made the final shot of the third quarter for the Rangers, she started the fourth quarter the same way with another bucket. Then, Zazzetti drew a foul off a made layup. While she didn’t hit the free throw, Forest Park still scored the next six points courtesy of some more shots from Zazzetti, Welp and junior forward Macie Zink.

Just like that, Forest Park had gone on a significant run of their own as their 12 straight points cut Heritage Hills lead to 39-34 with three minutes to play.

However, the late comeback would fall just short as the Patriots would knock down their late-game free throws and hold the Rangers to just two more points en route to the 45-36 victory.

While the late run didn’t quite push the Rangers over the hump, Hasenour was impressed with the effort the girls showed down the stretch.

“I want to compliment the girls because we didn’t just roll over, we cut it back to five points but just had a couple shots fall off the rim,” Hasenour said. “Our girls at times have had a little bit of a confidence issue where we’ll have one five-minute stretch where it looks like we have zero confidence and then the next five-minute stretch we look like world beats. We have to be more consistent, bringing positive vibes and energy.”

Heritage Hills' Avery Neff covers Forest Park's Ali Welp during Thursday's girls basketball game in Lincoln City. Welp, also a freshman, had a rather big performance for the Rangers as she led them in scoring with 14 points and also helped force some Patriot turnovers with her stingy defense. For more photos from the game, click here.

Both the Patriots and Rangers had big contributions from their young players. For Heritage Hills, Lytton (a freshman) led in scoring with 22 while Gordon (a sophomore) added 12. Forest Park was led in scoring by Welp (a freshman) with 14 points.

Lytton admits she still gets a little nervous as a freshman on a big stage but some of her teammates with varsity experience have been big helpers in keeping her calm during late-game situations and other important moments.

“I still get nervous quite a bit because it’s so much different from middle school,” Lytton said. “But the girls have really helped me with it and have kept me under control.”

Hasenour referred to Lytton as a “heck of a ball handler, heck of a shooter who knows situations” while Brown affectionately called her freshman starting guard a “gym rat” who has had a basketball in her hand since she was young.

Both coaches had the same positive reflections about Welp — a fellow freshman. Brown admits that the Patriots tried to make her go “helter skelter” with their tough defense but she stayed calm. Hasenour is impressed with how “she doesn’t think like a freshman, play like a freshman or act like a freshman.”

The Rangers will be back in action next Tuesday at home against Evansville Central while Heirtage Hills will travel to Huntingburg next Thursday for a PAC battle against Southridge.




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