Pats use defense to stonewall Warriors 64-21November 16, 2018
BY JONATHAN SAXON
LINCOLN CITY — “We must protect this house” are not words taken lightly by the Heritage Hills girls basketball team, as evidenced by its defense-fueled 64-21 win over the Evansville Harrison Warriors on Thursday night.
Patriots coach Kim Brown praised the team’s defensive efforts, which helped them settle into the game as they worked to find their groove on the offensive end.
“We’ve been playing really good defense all year so far,” she said. “I thought we mixed it up a little bit and held them from doing whatever they wanted to do. Our offense wasn’t necessarily clicking, but because of our defense, we were able to get some easy run-outs. We made some adjustments at halftime, and let the game come to us instead of trying to make everything happen.”
The defensive activity was intense and aggressive from the start as Heritage Hills (5-0, 0-0) used its high hands and quick feet to press its opponent at every turn on the court. Early baskets from senior forward Claire Heckel and sophomore center Rebekah Gordon got things going for the Patriots, as they jumped out to an early 8-2 lead. But Harrison (1-2, 0-0) fought back to within 8-6, thanks to scores from senior forward Jaya Hedgepeth, senior forward Sarah Eubank and junior guard Jada Morgan.
But the Patriots were quick with a response of their own. First, there was a three-pointer from Heckel. Then Gordon followed up with a second-chance bucket, and sophomore guard Avery Neff forced the issue further with back-to-back driving layups. Suddenly, Heritage Hills found itself up 17-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Down 11 points, the Warriors tried to up the ante on the defensive end by using more aggressive trap schemes. And they seemed to have an effect early, even producing a breakaway layup for senior forward Abby Dickinson after a steal from freshman guard Hadley Lytton.
But the defensive efforts only went so far, as Lytton, Gordon and sophomore forward Nevah Barnett put together nine points to Harrison’s seven to increase the lead for the Patriots to the sum of 26-13 at halftime. In the meantime, the defense was still strong for the Patriots, as they disrupted the operations of the Warriors, a theme which continued into the third period.
But the third period was also marked by the heavy doses of Gordon, who time and again found herself in the paint with the ball in her hands at point-blank distance from the basket. Her teammates fed her the ball, and she delivered to the tune of 12 points in the third (including going 6-for-6 from the free throw line).
“Going after the rebounds and crashing [the glass], and also cutting real hard and posting up helped a lot,” she said.
When the third quarter was over, the Patriots found themselves sitting on a comfortable lead as a result of outscoring the Warriors 23-2. They kept pouring it on in the fourth frame, as Neff and Barnett combined for a 6-0 run to start things off.
Their defensive pressure showed no signs of slowing down, as the girls stuck with their assignments and stayed in Harrison’s grill from one end of the floor to the other. Brown eventually sat her starting five with about four minutes remaining in the game, and the Patriot reserves took it home for Big Blue.
Gordon was the game’s high scorer with 20 points, while Heckel added another 12 in the win. Neff and Barnett each posted 11 points.
“They played zone a lot, so I feel like I needed to drive, because zone doesn’t allow you to shoot the three as much,” she said. “They took away the three, so I drove a lot more tonight.”
So far, the Patriots have been able to hold all of their opponents to less than 40 points in their games, and the team believes a zealous intent to play defense will be its cornerstone for anything the Patriots try to build this season. There could be nights when shots aren’t falling or when some of the players who usually play big have down games, but as long as they can continue to be disruptive on defense, they believe they will always have a chance on any given night.
“Defensively we’ve been playing as a team,” Heckel said. “I know defense is our number one [strength]. But we’re still working on crashing the boards and limiting our turnovers.”
“Defensively we’re very aggressive, and that’s what helps win our games,” Gordon added. “Offensively, we’re not playing as a team fully yet. Once we fix that, we’ll be really good.”
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