Pats pushing the pace of playNovember 4, 2020
By JIMMY LAFAKIS
LINCOLN CITY — When the Heritage Hills girls basketball team hones its craft, head coach Kim Brown has a particular objective in mind — turn up the tempo and hustle.
“We want to go,” she said. “Our mantra is, ‘If we can score on the break, we never have to run an offense.’ That would be perfect in our minds. We don’t have to slow down and set up an offense.”
On the hardwood, the best offense is a solid defense. The Pats adhere to that theory during games and take pride in forcing turnovers.
“Our defensive pressure causes a lot of teams problems,” Brown said. “We’re working on defending without fouling. We want to win the free throw war. We want to get up and down, for sure.”
A veteran cast will suit up for Heritage Hills this season. Senior guard Avery Neff brings experience to the backcourt, while fellow seniors Rebekah Gordon, Nevah Barnett, Sarah Mangan and Julia Knox hold down the forward and center positions.
The eldest Pats have embraced the challenge of maintaining a swift pace.
“This year, we’re buying into it more,” Neff said. “We’re all trying to get in shape. We’re running up and down the court a lot and looking for fast breaks as our first option.”
A sturdy group of juniors also seek to contribute. Guards Ella Schnieders, Hadley Lytton and Macey Toler join forward Madison Begle and Grace Mangan. Sophomore guards Olivia Susnjara and Jenna McDowell provide depth, while forward Rylie Schipp is the lone freshman on the Pats’ varsity roster.
“Not any one player has to win the game by themselves,” Brown said. “We have a very talented group of girls. Last year, we played really well in games individually. We didn’t jell as a team very well. We didn’t share the ball as much as I’d like us to share it. We’re really working on that.”
That unity spreads throughout the program. Gordon committed to play at Auburn University this past spring, but she isn’t ready to leave her roots just yet.
“This gym has literally been my home since I was young,” she said. “I always looked up to the older girls when I was younger. Being able to play on this court and playing with my best friends is awesome.”
As she peered around the Heritage Hills gymnasium, Brown echoed Gordon’s sentiments.
“I live and breathe it,” she said. “When I wear a Heritage Hills shirt, I am wearing it with pride every time I put it on. We try to instill that into our kids, too. It’s not just us we play for. We play for the whole community.”
The current situation has fostered a sense of urgency amongst the upperclassmen. In a year unlike any other, proper perspective is of the utmost importance.
“I think it’s starting to hit them now,” Brown said. “The seniors are running out of time. Especially when you think of COVID, you don’t know how short your season may be. They’re trying to get as much out of every minute they can.”
The future is uncertain, but one notion remains clear — the Pats’ burning desire to hit the hardwood.
“We just want to play,” Brown said. “We’re glad to be in practice. We’ll practice for as long as it takes to get a game in, but we just want to play.”
Brown and the Pats will not have to wait much longer.
Heritage Hills will open at 8:00 p.m. Friday at home against Crawford County.
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