Pats applying prior postseason knowledgeFebruary 26, 2021
By JIMMY LAFAKIS
LINCOLN CITY — Former head football coach and executive Al Davis once offered a succinct quip about his competitive mentality. The quote contains just three words, but those words have reverberated throughout the National Football League and the sports lexicon.
“Just win, baby,” Davis said.
The Heritage Hills (15-3, 10-1) boys basketball team has heeded the words of the late Hall of Famer. The Patriots captured a sectional championship last season and clinched at least a share of the Pocket Athletic Conference championship this year. As Heritage Hills head coach Nate Hawkins surveys the floor, he sees a seasoned squad equipped with ample talent.
“The biggest thing that comes to my mind is a group of a bunch of winners,” Hawkins said. “Hard-nosed, tough. They’ll do whatever it takes. They’ll do the little things.”
Senior Blake Sisley leads the Pats in scoring (21.7 points per game) and rebounding (7.1 rebounds per game.) Sisley provides points in bunches, but Heritage Hills remains well-rounded.
“When we look at our team, everybody talks about Blake,” Hawkins said. “We’ve also got some really big pieces around us — role players that just do what they have to do to help this team to get to the point where they’re at right now this season. We’ve had some really good wins, we’ve had some tough losses and we’ve learned along the way.”
Those pieces include six other seniors — Jake Johnson, Cameron Banks, Aiden Susnjara, Adam Guth, Logan Krzykowski and Jacob Schmidt. Junior Alex Schaeffer also plays a starting role, and the Pats will lean on those veterans in the throes of postseason play.
“I’ve told every one of our groups, ‘We’re only going to be as good as what our seniors are going to be,’ ” Hawkins said. “Our seniors have won. They’ve shown great leadership. Through some of the tough losses that we’ve had, they’ve always been able to bounce back and really play well. That’s a big credit to those guys and what they’ve been able to do.”
One conference-leading statistic pops off the Pats’ page — Heritage Hills has allowed just 44.9 points per game this season. Most recently, the Pats stifled Mount Vernon in a 48-31 road victory on Feb. 20.
“That’s what we hold our hat on,” Hawkins said. “That’s who we are. That’s what we want to be. We want to be a tough, defensive-minded team that rebounds the basketball and gives us a chance to win every single night.”
The seniors lead the charge, but Hawkins also highlighted two younger marksmen — sophomore Marcus Becher and junior JT Smallwood. Their long-distance proficiency becomes a boon when opponents double-team Sisley on drives. The Pats recorded 21 bench points in a key 61-50 PAC victory over South Spencer on Feb. 13.
“This is a total team deal,” Hawkins said. “It starts with myself and our coaching staff. We’re willing to listen to them, just like they listen to us. We’ll try to figure it out all together and do what’s in the best interest of Heritage Hills. We’ll try to go out there and win a sectional championship this year.”
While he recounted memories from this year’s campaign and beyond, Hawkins tipped his cap to the Pats’ spirited supporters.
“The Heritage Hills fan base comes out to support these kids,” he said. “It’s really nice to see. We’re hopeful that even more will be able to come out to the sectional here. We can have a nice little sea of red, white and blue in the stands.”
Heritage Hills will close the regular season with a home game against Perry Central at 8:30 p.m. this evening. The Pats will face Evansville Memorial in an opening-round 3A Sectional 32 game on Tuesday in Boonville.
“These kids have prepared really hard all year,” Hawkins said. “They’re looking forward to the opportunity to go to Boonville, play in a really good sectional and have the opportunity to bring home the crown again this year.”
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