Youth behind them, Pats search to build on experienceNovember 22, 2018
By JONATHAN SAXON
There are those that say the sequel is never as good as the original, but count the Heritage Hills boys basketball team among the ranks of those who disagree with that statement.
After winning 20 games and a share of the Pocket Athletic conference title last season with a young core of guys in key roles, the Patriots have their sights set on reaching higher marks this season, particularly when it comes to making some noise in sectional.
“We were very happy with what we were able to accomplish last year,” said Heritage Hills head coach Nate Hawkins. “We want to be that team that everyone looks at and says ‘We got to go beat Heritage Hills.’”
Even with their regular season success, the Pats finished the season on sour note when they lost in the first round of sectional to the Evansville Memorial Tigers. Now a season older and wiser, the players feel that they can use that bitter taste to fuel themselves during the year as they work their way back to the tourney to handle some unfinished business.
“Nobody wanted it to end that way,” said junior guard Simon Scherry (11.8 points per game last season). “Hopefully we can rebound on that, come back better in the postseason and make a run.”
“That wasn’t very much fun,” added sophomore forward Blake Sisley (11 ppg). “We’re looking to make a deep postseason run, that’s always the goal. This year I think we have a great shot at it.”
The Pats aren’t looking to fix what isn’t broken when it comes to their approach on the court.
They will continue to look to crash the boards to initiate fastbreak scoring opportunities and deny their opponents second-chance shots. The team believes their length and athleticism will once again be their greatest resources just as it was last year.
“Our idea on the offensive end is we want to play fast and push the break,” said Hawkins. “We feel like we have the athleticism and length. We want to score the basketball. Whenever we put multiple guys out there that can really push and run, it keeps the pressure on the opposing defense.”
The team will certainly look to their horses like Scherry, Sisley and junior guard Murray Becher (18.1 ppg) to spark the offense in the open court.
While Hawkins wants the players to focus on moving the ball through the paint as they work toward the basket, he also stressed that the team has the freedom to play loose and utilize the shooters when perimeter chances present themselves. The players will have to use their judgment to make those decisions based on the flow of the game.
“I never tell them not to shoot the basketball,” Hawkins said. “We feel like everybody has the green light in our program to shoot the basketball. That being said, there’s a difference between a good shot and a bad shot.”
Defensively not much is slated to change for the Pats either. They will rely on their man-to-man defense as the foundation for their schemes, with little adjustments here and there to adapt to whatever the other teams try to throw at them. The team will look to once again shoot for limiting opponents to 50 points or less in games in order maximize their chances of winning during the season.
“The key to our defense is we need to up our communication,” said Becher. “If we up our communication, it’ll really bring our defense up a notch.”
But one thing that does feel a bit different and could be an upgrade for the Patriots this year is their bench depth.
Hawkins said there are plenty of players such as Carson Leibering, Grant Lashley and Grahm Turner who could easily be inserted into the starting line up and not cause Heritage Hills to suffer in their production. Hawkins feels confident that the reserves he calls on during games will not only be able to give starters the rest they need to stay effective, but they could also be used in mix-and-match lineups to counter teams that try to exploit certain matchups with their personnel
“I think that’s going to be huge for us this year,” said Hawkins. “Last year we had some guys that were still trying to figure it out, this year they’re looking to extend their minutes. When you can go to your bench and don’t miss a beat you become very tough to hang with and defend. We’re excited about getting going and seeing what they can do out here.”
Hawkins also thinks that the extra year under the team’s belt will help them play smarter basketball and not rush into some of the pitfalls they fell into last season when things didn’t go their way during games. He calls it “panic turning into patience.”
“With all of that experience, when things get a little bit out of hand, those guys are going to be able to keep us calm and not get so flustered,” he said. “(I) think that is only going to propel us into a greater season this year.”
The Patriots had a lot of things right last season and with some minor tweaks to the recipe, they think they can eat better this year when they open the season against North Harrison on Saturday.
They have the ingredients and they know the blend, now it’s just a matter of putting it all together and producing a new outcome February and March.
“If we all come together we have a lot of potential,” said Scherry. “If we come together and play as a team we should do really well this year.”
“We should be very successful,” added Sisley. “Our team is very deep this year, we got a lot of players off the bench that can come in and fill their roles. We’ll definitely be ready when (sectional) comes.”
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