Pats win 14th straight on Senior Night

Murray Becher


LINCOLN CITY — If adversity is supposed to build character, then the Heritage Hills boys basketball team was under quite a bit of construction during Tuesday night’s game against Princeton. Both teams went shot-for-shot in the first half, and it wasn’t until late in the second when the Patriots (19-3) were able to pull away and beat the Tigers (9-12), 74-57 on Senior Night.

Patriots coach Nate Hawkins was disappointed in the energy the team played with to start the game, but was proud of the way they responded after he challenged them to raise their game at halftime.

“We came out kind of flat,” said Hawkins, whose team has now posted 14 straight wins. “First half was just flat (and) back-and-forth, not really playing with any type of urgency. It looked like we were in the park playing against our buddies. At halftime, I challenged our kids to be better. We had to be better from an energy (and) attacking standpoint. I felt like we did that.”

Cole Sigler

Senior guard Cole Sigler got things started with a three, and fellow senior guard Murray Becher followed suit with another downtown shot. Junior center Rhett Thompson scored the first Tiger four points, but shots from senior guard Cayden Kratzer and junior forward Blake Sisley gave the Patriots an 11-4 lead. Junior guard Jurrien Ballard and junior forward Dominic Hardiman combined for six points to get Tigers within three before Sisley drove from the perimeter and finished with a dunk to put the Pats up 15-10. Ballard and Hardiman earned a couple more scores to draw the Tigers within one by the end of the first quarter.

Sisley started the second with a second-chance score, which Becher and Sigler added to for the 21-15 lead. Ballard, Hardiman and senior guard Collin Holzmeyer cut the lead to two-possessions, but Sisley and Becher extended it back out to eight. Becher scored once more before the half, but Ballard poured in eight points to make it a two-point game at halftime.

Senior guard Simon Scherry scored on a lob from junior guard Jake Johnson to start the third, but the Tigers kept pace with a three from Holzmeyer. Scherry and Ballard exchanged buckets before an and-one play from Hardiman tied the game at 36-all with 5:15 left in the third. Sigler came right back with a layup, but a Hardiman 3-pointer gave the Tigers a one-point lead. However the lead change was brief, as Becher scored six straight, including an and-one, to put the Pats right back on top. Thompson cut the lead to three, but a Sisley and-one, combined with a nine-point outburst from Scherry, gave the Pats a 15-point lead at the end of the third.

Simon Scherry

Hardiman and Thompson got the Tigers within two to start the fourth, but buckets from Sisley and Scherry kept them at bay. Becher went shot-for-shot with Thompson and Ballard before combining with Sisley on a 10-0 run for the 19-point lead. Sisley finished his night with a second dunk before Hawkins pulled the Patriots starters with 1:15 left in the fourth.

Becher had 26 points and four rebounds. His five free throws put him at 278 in his career, which is now most all-time, surpassing Tim Denning's 277.  Sisley had 21 points and seven rebounds, and Scherry had 15 points and five assists. Ballard finished with 25 points and four assists, Hardiman had 16, and Thompson chipped in 12 points and five rebounds.

The players shared the same thoughts as their coach about their performance level in the first half, but they flipped the switch in the second and were happy to finish with a win in their final home game of the year.

“It’s a memorable moment,” said Kratzer, who started and finished with three points on Senior Night. “I love the fans, family and all my coaches for sticking with me. It was a great atmosphere on a Tuesday night.”

“It feels great,” added Scherry. “For all these people to come out on a Tuesday night, it’s a work night (and) everybody could just stay home. To have the support we have is unbelievable. (We’re) just really grateful.”

Cayden Kratzer

While he wasn’t thrilled with how they started, Hawkins thinks that such a hard-fought game this late in their season will benefit the Patriots in sectionals. He tipped his hat off to the Tigers and graded their play as “A+” on Tuesday night, but he was proud that the Patriots were able to make plays late to answer Princeton’s test.

“It was huge,” said Hawkins. “You are preparing for a sectional, and things are not going to be easy. This is another game where somebody challenged us, and we had to make plays down the stretch. This is why we like playing (Princeton) right around this time. It always seems like it’s a battle.”

The Patriots finish their season 8:30 p.m. Friday on the road against the Perry Central Commodores (13-9).

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