Pats outlast Rangers on Senior NightDecember 10, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
LINCOLN CITY — Rivalries can bring out a lot in people, and Thursday’s girls basketball game between Forest Park and Heritage Hills exemplified that.
The Rangers (7-2, 3-2) and their Pocket Athletic Conference rival Patriots (5-1, 2-0) combined for 39 fouls during Thursday night’s game. Much of it was close actions with both teams going on a lot of runs, and it was a toss up going into the fourth quarter. But in the end, the Pats drained four shots from beyond the arc in the final quarter that helped make a difference in the outcome — with Heritage Hills coming away with a 57-47 win.
“One of the last things I said to the girls coming out of the locker room was this was going to be a dogfight,” Heritage Hills coach Kim Brown said. “They weren’t going to quit, and I said, ‘We can’t, either.’ I was hoping to dictate the game, but I feel like Forest Park dictated the beginning of the game and third quarter, and we had to fight back — scratch and claw to fight back, which causes the physicality.”
“These schools, they’re not a county rival, but they may as well be,” Forest Park coach Tony Hasenour said. “They’re close to one another, a lot of these girls are friends with one another, they work together in different jobs. They want to beat us and we want to beat them, and it was just two teams going hard at it trying to get that win — doing whatever it takes to get that win.”
The Pats and Rangers were neck-and-neck after the first quarter, though Heritage Hills held the clear edge with a 34-23 advantage going into halftime. However, a 10-0 run by the Rangers to start the third quarter changed all of that, as they pulled within one point. The Pats held to a 38-36 lead after three — with it being anyone’s game going into the fourth.
That’s when the fourth quarter made all the difference, as sophomore Olivia Susnjara and junior Hadley Lytton each drained a shot from downtown. The Pats held Senior Night on Thursday, and senior Avery Neff banked a pair of big threes to help lift her team.
“I just thought our team did well of distributing — pounding it inside and kicking it back out to that 3-point line,” Neff said. “That was a pretty good gameplan. We were looking at that during the second half, and we played it out the right way.”
Neff finished with seven points on Senior Night, while Nevah Barnett managed a bucket and Rebekah Gordon scored a team-high 16 points.
The three of them came through to another win — one of many they’ve had with Brown these past four years.
“I’ve known all these kids since they were almost toddlers,” Brown said. “They’ve been in the program since they were in second grade, probably, and I’ve been with these kids all this time. They’ve been at my house for my daughter’s sleepovers and this and that (and) the other.
I always told them, ‘We don’t talk about basketball at my house, but every time I look at them, I feel like they’re mine — they’re my kids,” she continued. “They grew up with my daughter (Aubree). I love these kids, and they give all they got, and they love this team. And you can’t ask more from anybody.”
It meant a lot to Neff that she got to have a Senior Night, since it was originally supposed to happen sooner, but quarantine pushed that back.
“I’m happy that we got to do it because it’s a tradition for all sports and all seniors to have a Senior Night,” she said. “I’m glad that we had as many fans as we did to support our team as well.”
Neff’s timely threes helped Heritage Hills get back in the win column Thursday after a a 71-43 loss Dec. 5 at Evansville Memorial. Brown thought the Pats didn’t come ready to play against the Tigers — who were a quality opponent. The 10th-year coach said Memorial didn’t miss any steps, while Heritage Hills missed a lot of them.
The Pats will get ready for another rivalry on Tuesday at Southridge. The Raiders (4-4, 3-2) improved to .500 on Thursday and climbed above .500 in PAC play with a 49-37 win against Pike Central. Star junior Myah Montgomery enjoyed a 21-point performance against the Chargers.
“I feel like we’re going to have to clog the lane,” Brown said. “If Myah stays out and shoots the three, (senior Kennedy) Nalley’s going to drive the lane. So, we’re going to have good help defense, and be able to recover back to the other girls. Those other girls don’t get their name in the paper very much, but we know that they can score. So, it’s going to be full team defense.”
Hasenour thought one common theme between Thursday and the 59-35 loss Dec. 8 at Tecumseh was ball movement. The fifth-year coach thought the Rangers did, however, show better shot selection, a defensive effort and a better rebounding effort than they did against the Braves.
The Rangers will hope to put the clamps on what is now a two-game skid when they return Tuesday at home against Boonville. Thursday was the last of seven consecutive road games, and this game against the Pioneers is slated to be their first home game since Nov. 17 against Gibson Southern.
“They got a really nice guard in (junior Alaysha) Brandenberger,” Hasenour said. “We’ll have to try our best to contain her. I don’t know if that’s possible or not, but everything kind of goes through her. So, we’ll have to focus on her defensively.”
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