Patriots look to take care of unfinished business

Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Heritage Hills' Blake Sisley is expected to be a major contributor this year for the Patriots.














LINCOLN CITY — Picture this: You’re part of a basketball team that has won 42 games in the past two seasons, but both times the season came to an end after the first round of the sectional tournament. What is the feeling that colors the team’s mental state going into that next season? For the Heritage Hills Patriots and their coach Nate Hawkins, the answer is simple — unfinished business.

“The biggest thing for us is that feeling of loss in the locker room last year,” Hawkins said, reflecting on the Patriots’ 66-62 loss to the Evansville Bosse Bulldogs. “We did some incredible things, but we didn't meet one of our goals last year. To come up a bit short, these kids that have come back don’t want to repeat that course. They want to finish what we’ve started.”

The Patriots, who start their season Dec. 7 at Evansville Central, will have plenty of tools to help them with the task of title hunting. They have a team full of athletes who are looking forward to pushing the ball and playing the same kind of exciting, fast-paced brand of basketball they’ve been producing for the past few seasons. The main headliners all season will be the core trio of senior guards Murray Becher and Simon Scherry, plus junior forward Blake Sisley. The three All-Pocket Athletic Conference players combined for almost 50 points a game last season, but they also look forward to sharing the ball and doing whatever is necessary on the floor that helps advance the Patriots’ agenda.

“Winning games is more about the little things,” said Becher, who also made the Indiana Junior All-Star team last season. “You have to do things like rebounding and playing good defense if you want to really win.”

“We have that bad taste in our mouth from the end of last year,” Sisley added. “We’re just looking to build off that. We’re going to challenge ourselves this year to get ready for sectional so we can make a run. We have multiple guys that can score it. We just mesh really well. That’s a good quality that we have.”

Hawkins further added that rebounding and defense will be the keys to the Patriots maximizing their impact on the court. Getting stops and hustling up extra possessions have always been the bedrock of the Patriots’ success, and their coach doesn’t see that changing anytime soon.

“What it's going to come down to is how hard we’re going to work day in and day out,” he said. “Are we going to be committed to defending and rebounding on a daily basis in order to meet those goals. If we can do those things, at the end of this we’re going to be really happy with this group.”

The Patriots are looking to pressure the basketball and throw teams off balance with their full court and trap schemes. Once their opponents start getting sloppy with the ball in response to their pressure, it’s open season for them.

“Getting in transition just wreaks havoc on other teams,” Scherry said. “It’s easier to score in transition when it’s fastbreak opportunities. We’re trying to get mismatches in that case.”

The Patriots can get it done a lot of different ways on offense. They can score inside, shoot three-pointers and even get above the rim with dunks. Hawkins thinks the Patriots are at their best when they’re getting downhill to attack the paint, but he's also looking to throw some new things into the offense that will use Sisley’s 6-foot-8 frame to cause different mismatches on the court.

“We feel like Blake has developed into a position now where we can bring him out and he can get to the rim,” Hawkins said. “It allows us to expand our offense even more than what we had a year ago.”

Along with the anticipated starting trio, the Patriots also have a fourth returning starter in senior guard Cole Sigler, who brings shooting and defensive skills to the floor. Hawkins hasn’t yet settled on the fifth starting spot, but said senior guard Cayden Kratzer and junior guard Jake Johnson have both made strong cases for the role. Senior center Mark Doyle, junior forward Adam Guth, junior guards Logan Krzykowski and Aiden Susnjara, and sophomore Alex Schaeffer will all be key contributors as well.

The Patriots have their mission and they know what they must do to execute it. They believe they’re right there with the top teams in the state, and can’t wait to use this season to finally get over the sectional hump.

“When you want to battle and get to the next step, we’re going to have to start playing like dogs,” Hawkins said. “We got to get a little bit tougher, but to win in the tournament, it’s going to come down to execution and tough, hard-nosed defense.”

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