Pats success has familial, generational connectionMarch 8, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
LINCOLN CITY — Amidst all the milestones, broken records, new heights reached in the last two seasons of the Heritage Hills boys basketball program, it might seem hard to believe that this team keeps finding more history to make and more molds to break, but they do.
The Patriots (19-3) won their second consecutive Sectional 32 championship on Saturday after a 17-year drought prior to last season. However, this repeat snapped an even bigger drought for Heritage Hills. The team’s 54-32 win against host Boonville gave them their 11th sectional title in history, and it was the first time since 1988-89 that they won back-to-back sectional titles.
Star senior big man Blake Sisley led the way for the Pats when he tallied 86 points through the team’s three wins, and watching him on was father and former Heritage Hills player and coach Matt Sisley.
With the repeat, Blake now knows how Matt feels, because Matt was on those 1988 and 1989 Heritage Hills teams that were previously the last to repeat as sectional champions. And Matt helped keep the winning tradition going by adding the team’s fifth and six sectional championships of the 1980s.
“It started in 1980,” Matt said. “Our program was hot back then, our community loved it. There was a lot of pressure, it was an expectation. Anything less than that just wasn’t going to get it done.”
Matt feels those same expectations are there for the program right now. He immediately preceded Nate Hawkins as coach of the Pats, from 2007-08 through 2015-16, and he had to try to get things going again. Heritage Hills did not record a winning season from the 2005-06 campaign through 2011-12, and Matt finally saw more wins during some his later seasons.
Now, after all of his years playing and coaching at the varsity level, the 1990 graduate is happy that the program he’s spent so much time around is returning to what it once was.
“It’s kind of like back to normal now,” he said. “It’s very exciting. This community wants a winner, and me personally, I’m thrilled. We’d come close when I coached a couple of times in the sectional, fell short, kind of painful a little bit, stung, but it’s definitely back on track.”
The stories that Matt used to tell Blake about the teams he played on resonate with the latter.
“We always joked, he always said he had more sectionals,” Blake told the Herald on Saturday. “Tonight, we’re tied up now. It’s just something we can joke about for the rest of our lives.”
All joking aside, Matt is proud of everything Blake has accomplished. Blake, meanwhile, appreciates everything his father has done for him. The University of Evansville signee noted that the two are always talking basketball and working out together, with Matt being Blake’s trainer.
“I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without him,” Blake said. “We got another one (Trent) coming through for four years, and we’re just looking to leave a stamp on the program.
Sibling sectional success
Blake isn’t the only Patriot who has joined a family member in achieving sectional glory.
Another key cog in the 2020 sectional championship was Murray Becher, the school’s all-time leading scorer at 1,703 points. While Murray was breaking records, younger brother Marcus, now a sophomore, was getting accustomed to the high school game as a junior varsity player for the Pats. Marcus is one of those who has taken on a larger role with the varsity squad since his brother’s graduation, donning the same No. 44 that Murray once did.
The two can bond over being part of a program that has now won back-to-back sectionals.
“It brings us much closer, and he’s really happy for me,” Marcus said after Heritage Hills’ win on Saturday.”
Murray couldn’t be on hand to watch his brother do what he did last year due his obligations of playing in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament for the University of Indianapolis, but is thrilled his younger brother is following in his footsteps.
He told Marcus to keep working hard and eventually, his time would come, and what that time comes, to be ready and embrace his role.
Like Murray, Marcus has the ability to shoot the 3-pointer when necessary. Marcus talked about the two of them playing one-on-one in the barn together as his older brother pushed him to get better.
Meanwhile, Murray reminisced about his younger days when he played with Marcus and also older brothers Mason, a 2016 Heritage Hills graduate, and Mitchel, a 2018 graduate.
“We always grew up very competitive,” Murray said. “None of us wanted to lose. We always wanted to win (and) beat each other. I think that’s what helped us learn toughness and help us in our future careers.”
Continuing and building on a legacy
Coach Nate Hawkins praised Heritage Hills for having special family connections, with the tradition continuing from Matt to Blake, and Murray to Marcus. He also lauded mothers Heather Sisley and Julie Becher, for how supportive they’ve been as parents while John Becher, a 1986 graduate, and Matt Sisley worked with their sons.
“And when you do those things, that’s why I think you turn around and you see these championships,” he added.”
Now, Blake and Marcus will get a chance to do what their family members who came before them didn’t — bring a regional championship to Heritage Hills. John was part of those sectional winners in 1985 and 1986, but couldn’t help the Pats reach semi-state.
Matt came so close to helping Heritage Hills win a regional in 1988, as the Pats were just seconds away from hanging on to a 64-63 victory for the regional championship. David Litkenhus missed a three for Evansville Central, but Floyd Malone put the ball back to give Heritage Hills a heartbreaking 65-64 loss in the final seconds.
“I still haven’t gotten over it,” Matt said. “And a lot of the players that played still talk about that moment.”
Last year’s Heritage Hills squad not only snapped a long sectional drought, but was a contender to win the Class 3A state championship. However, people will forever be left to wonder what could have been, since the COVID-19 outbreak forced a cancellation of the remainder of the boys basketball tournament.
Murray was one of those seniors on the team who never got the opportunity to play beyond the sectional.
“Hopefully, they can make up for it and get the regional that we didn’t get the chance to play in,” Murray said.
Last year’s team was supposed to meet Silver Creek at the Hatchet House in the Washington Regional — the same Silver Creek program this year’s Pats are supposed to meet. Blake can not only help Heritage Hills win its first regional ever with two wins at the regional, but also surpass the boys single-season scoring record that is held by Tim Denning’s 495 points during the 1997-98 campaign.
“He’s going to lead and play like a senior,” Matt said of Blake.
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