Pats take regular season finaleFebruary 26, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
LINCOLN CITY — Defending Sectional 32 Champion Heritage Hills does not have some of the pieces it had when it snipped down the nets last year, but it sent a message to all of its sectional opponents Friday night — this year's team can shoot it, too.
The Patriots (16-3) played host to a Perry Central team that came into this game with nine straight victories. The Commodores did indeed prove a challenge for a Pats team that had some turnovers and allowed some offensive rebounds, but eight 3-pointers helped create separation for Heritage Hills in the team's 63-48 triumph.
Sophomore Marcus Becher and junior JT Smallwood combined to account for seven of the eight triples the Pats splashed in Friday night's game. All 12 of Becher's points came from downtown, while nine of Smallwood's 11 points came from beyond the arc.
"When JT and Marcus started to hit some of those shots, all of a sudden, we started to see it spread a little bit," Heritage Hills coach Nate Hawkins said. "Because early on — Perry, they came out and they were physical with us and they were kicking our butts on the boards. And we had to make some adjustments."
The Pats held a 31-21 lead at the half and a 48-37 edge after three quarters. Smallwood and Becher stepped up from 3-point land Friday evening, but there was that man, Blake Sisley, yet again in the second half. The senior big man capped off his regular season career by attacking the bucket and using moves to get past Perry Central. Sisley had a game-high 25 points in the final regular season game of his career.
Hawkins knows this year's sectional draw did the team no favors. The Pats will have to win three games in order to win their second straight sectional championship. However, the fifth-year coach sees one distinction Heritage Hills has from its sectional competition.
"I think it starts with Blake Sisley," he said. "I really do. I think that Blake — he kind of sets the tone for us. When Blake is ready to go for 32 minutes, he's really hard to guard. And that's what I said — he's been so consistent all season."
He likes, though, that the team's other players have contributed since the 66-60 overtime loss Feb. 12 at Forest Park. Hawkins cited the likes of Smallwood and Becher making shots, and noted how well senior Jake Johnson has run the team all season long. He told the Herald it will take "all of us."
The focus now turns to Evansville Memorial, whom the Pats bested last year to claim their first sectional championship since 2003. Hawkins said Heritage Hills will emphasize focus and preparation in practice ahead of Tuesday's game against the Tigers. He sees it fitting that these two teams drew each other in the first round, but also that Memorial is much improved from last year.
"It's going to be a big challenge for us, but I think it's a challenge that our kids are looking forward to — and we think we can meet that challenge," Hawkins said.
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