Pats pummel Rangers in front of packed house

Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Forest Park’s Trever Zink battled with Heritage Hills’ Simon Scherry for a loose ball in front of a packed crowd in the Patriots 69-52 victory in Lincoln City on Friday. For more photos from the game, click here.

By HENDRIX MAGLEY
hmagley@dcherald.com

LINCOLN CITY — A battle of two teams with a combined five losses between them will bring attention no matter who the teams are in action.

But when the two schools are conference rivals and just fifteen minutes apart from one another? That’s when pandemonium breaks out as was apparent on Friday night in Lincoln City between Class 2A No. 7 Forest Park and Heritage Hills.

Looking for a parking spot? If you didn’t get to the game early, you’d be relegated to parking in the grass and hoping your car doesn’t get stuck.

Trying to find a seat? Depending on your time of arrival, all that was available was standing room only.

And in a game of this nature, it’s only fitting that a senior has what he considered to be one of his best performances of his high school career.

“I wanted to do it for the crowd and I wanted to do it for Coach (Hawkins). We knew he used to coach (at Forest Park) so it was almost like a revenge game for us, the crowd fueled this game,” said senior Mitchel Becher who led the Patriots with a team-high 20 points in Heritage Hills 69-52 victory over the Rangers on Friday.

Becher wants to end his senior campaign on the right note and the victory was just another step in that direction.

“You know, I only have a couple more games left so I’m trying to go out there and play my hardest,” Mitchel Becher said. “I wanted to go out there and control my effort, control my attitude — just basically control everything I can and let the rest happen.”

The first half was a back-and-forth with affair with neither team gaining much of an advantage as the Patriots led by five after the first quarter and at the halftime break.

In the first quarter, Heritage Hills (17-2, 5-1 PAC) looked right away to their freshman big man Blake Sisley who scored the team’s first four points en route to 13 on the night.

“Before the game, I told Blake that we were going to him right away so I told him to be tough and just go score,” Patriot head coach Nate Hawkins said.

The Rangers (13-4, 3-1 PAC) were fighting tooth-and-nail in the first half with Collin Hochgesang knocking down a few big three-pointers and Sam Englert fighting through contact to draw foul shots but the second half saw a more dominant Heritage Hills team.

Heritage Hills stretched the lead to ten points at the end of the third quarter as Becher began to get hot. Becher scored 10 of his 20 points in the third quarter and 16 of his final tally came in the second half. 

“I texted Mitchel last night after practice and I told him, ‘You’re a senior — we need you big this weekend’,” Hawkins said. “He came out and did his thing tonight and that’s what seniors do in February and March.”

In the fourth quarter, the Rangers had chances to keep it close as they trailed by just nine points with just 4:58 remaining but the Becher brothers, Mitch and Murray, carried the Patriots in the final period to stretch the lead to as many as 18 points before the final buzzer sounded.

After starting the season with a 13-1 record, the Rangers have lost three straight games to Evansville Mater Dei, Wood Memorial and now the Pats.

What’s the quickest way for Forest Park to get back on track?

“We have to be more upbeat,” said Ranger head coach Jeff Litherland whose team was led in scoring by Englert who finished with 13 and Daniel Lusk who had nine points. “We have to stop caring about what our record is because honestly, I don’t care what our record says. What happens in about two and a half weeks from now in March is what I’m focused on.”

While the confidence for the Rangers may not be at the highest it’s been this season, Litherland knows that this team has the talent to still reach their goal of a sectional championship.

“I’ve told them the last five champions in Class 2A have 25 combined losses between them,” Litherland said. “You’re going to lose — North Carolina loses, Duke loses, things happen. It’s how you bounce back and how do you grow, they’re going to have search in their soul and find their way and be ready to go.”

Hawkins had a feeling this game would be a game that the two teams would remember for a long time and was prepared for a tremendous outpouring of fan support on both sides.

But when the junior varsity game went to double overtime, it just added more anticipation for the varsity battle — a game that Sisley said “felt like a Super Bowl” due to the added intensity on both sides, not to mention the extended halftime break due to Heritage Hills announcing their homecoming court.

“I want some positive enthusiasm, that’s what I want to generate,” Hawkins said.

Mitchel Becher added, “Before the game, coach told us to have no mercy and to keep going at them. I went out here and played my hardest and that boosted our confdience.”




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