Pats clinch berth in sectional championshipMarch 6, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
BOONVILLE — They hooted and hollered in the locker room after grinding their way to what was now uncharted territory for them.
Five Heritage Hills seniors had not known what a victory at the sectional tournament felt like. Friday was their last chance. Nate Hawkins, who had won three sectional championships at Forest Park, waited for his first sectional tournament win since cutting down the nets with the Rangers for a third consecutive year in 2012. He walked across the team bench with his fists clenched high above his head with 6.5 seconds left.
The Class 3A-No. 2 Patriots (21-3) are one-and-done at sectionals no more, avenging last year's first round loss to Class 3A-No. 9 Evansville Bosse with a 54-47 win, their 16th in a row, in the Class 3A semifinals Friday night. They went back-and-forth with the Bulldogs in a game that saw 11 lead changes and six ties in the first half alone. Bosse tried to make a comeback, but Heritage Hills mustered just enough to prevent the Bulldogs from completing it.
"It's huge," Hawkins said. "It feels really good because it's been against a team that we've done so many battles with over the years with Evansville Bosse. We have tons and tons of respect for those guys and what they do."
Hawkins told his players before the game that a win will come down to the five seniors: Murray Becher, Simon Scherry, Cole Sigler, Cayden Kratzer and Mark Doyle. Becher, Scherry and Sigler all start for the Pats, but Doyle made his impact when called upon. Junior Blake Sisley ran into foul trouble and was one away from fouling out. Doyle delivered when his team needed him.
He had only one bucket on the night, but that bucket got the Heritage Hills crowd to come unglued in a packed gym with standing room only. Doyle put one in at the buzzer to put the Pats up, 45-35, after three quarters. Heritage Hills created more separation in that second half after the largest lead in the first half was four points.
Then there's Becher and Scherry, who have rewritten the record books in their careers at Heritage Hills, but only now do they have a sectional win under their belt. Becher finished with nine points, and Scherry a game-high 18.
"It feels great," Scherry said. "To know all the work we put in, all the time spent in the gym, for it to all pay off feels amazing."
"I hated that feeling the past three years losing first round," Becher said. "To finally have our seniors step up and get the win, that's amazing."
Sisley joins Becher and Scherry in forming the Pats' well-known trio. Foul trouble did not stop him from doing damage Friday night. Sisley tallied 17 points in the win, and came through late in the clutch.
Sophomore Julian Norris of Bosse scored a bucket to narrow Heritage Hills' margin to 51-47. The Bulldogs fouled the Pats late, but not this time. Heritage Hills evaded a foul, kept pushing and found Sisley at the other end. He laid one in, and essentially put the game on ice for a 53-47 advantage.
Hawkins is hoping the Pats shoot the ball better in the championship game. They made seven 3-pointers, but went 9-for-22 at the free throw line. He thinks the game will come down to making shots.
The Pats will get the chance to cut down the nets for the first time since 2003 with the sectional championship Saturday against an Evansville Memorial team they bested, 72-28, Jan. 4. This is what they've been working for in the four seasons Hawkins has coached them, and are in the sectional title game for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
"Our work's not done," Hawkins said. "We're not satisfied. We're ready to come back tomorrow and see if we can finish off the job."
For more photos from the game, click here.
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