Power shift leaves Pats on wrong side of rallyMarch 4, 2017
From Herald Staff Reports
At times, Nate Hawkins felt powerless.
The Heritage Hills boys basketball coach called timeouts. He switched defenses. But sometimes, an opponent with momentum — especially a squad chock full of veterans — won’t give up its grip on the game once it’s been seized.
Mount Vernon accomplished that within its 62-59 comeback win over Heritage Hills on Friday in the Class 3A sectional semifinals at Pioneer Stadium in Boonville. One minute, the Patriots had scooted in command with a 23-13 cushion in the opening half. The next moment, Mount Vernon drills a 3-pointer to end the third quarter, providing the Wildcats a lead on which they added to and then protected to the finish.
“It was just one of those things where momentum got going for those guys,” Hawkins said. “We were a little bit out of sorts, and made some silly turnovers in that run that we hadn’t been making for probably the last month of the season. They turned up the heat, and we didn’t respond real well. You know how it is, whenever a team gets going on the offensive end, if it’s not one guy, it’s somebody else stepping up. And kudos to Mount Vernon, they start five seniors and they had a group of kids that played like seniors tonight against us.”
Chief among them was point guard Collin Jackson, who was averaging six points per game but erupted for a game-high 21 for Mount Vernon (7-18). Blake Jackson pitched in 17 points and Walker Paris added 10 for the Wildcats, who’ve won back-to-back games for the first time all season. They’ll face Evansville Bosse (17-7) in tonight’s championship.
Heritage Hills (15-9) dampened Mount Vernon’s first spurt near the end of the second quarter when Patriot sophomore Cade Jones tossed in a halfcourt shot at the first-half buzzer. That launched the Pats to a 26-17 halftime lead, but they had fewer antidotes for Mount Vernon’s firepower from there as the Cats stacked up 45 points over the final two periods.
“Even when we got up on them early, they stuck with the process and kept battling, and at the end they showed great mental toughness to finish the game,” Hawkins said.
That countered a career-best 15 points by Jones, and Patriot teammate Murray Becher also scored 15 while Jones and Becher each secured four rebounds as well. Freshman Simon Scherry pitched in seven points off the bench for the Patriots, including a 3-pointer with two seconds remaining; Mount Vernon never had to inbound the ball, since the Pats had no timeouts remaining.
The time ran out for Dalton Selvidge, Grant Doyle and Gabe Hitz, the three seniors who played the final games of their Patriot careers. Selvidge finished with 10 points, while Doyle snagged four rebounds and swiped three steals. Hitz pitched in three rebounds off the bench.
After the game, Hawkins told his trio of seniors if they’re ever looking to get into coaching, to hit him up since he’s always looking for good assistants. Hawkins was mostly trying to lighten the mood at that point, but he was more serious in discussing his seniors’ steadfast character.
“I’m going to miss those three guys. They’re tremendous young men ... they’re just amazing kids, very driven,” Hawkins said. “They’re going to make it in the game of life, they’re going to be very successful going into college and beyond college.
Hawkins continued: “I’ve always believed that you’re going to be as good as what your seniors are, and our seniors may be not the most talented bunch of kids, but just the way they’ve worked every day and gotten better, and just brought a positive attitude, they really leaned on our younger kids, too, and really helped them through some of the difficult times. Just all of their leadership qualities, we’re going to miss them big-time. I just hope the kids that are coming back feed off of what those kids brought to our program this year.”
The Pats should be well-stocked down the road with two of their top scorers returning in Carter Meunier (10 points Friday) and Becher. Plus, the Patriots will get Mitchel Becher back after a knee injury curtailed last year’s starting point guard for nearly the entire 2016-17 season. Still, the Pats amassed 15 victories — a seven-win uptick from last year’s regular season — and gave their coach a jolt of optimism along with it.
“To be honest with you,” Hawkins said, “with Mitchel going out early in the season, to be able to get 15 wins this season was just tremendous with the young kids that we have.”
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