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By Danya Long
For The Leader
The Heritage Hawks boys’ basketball team has been struggling in the early half of the season, facing some tough competition and not quite coming out on top. Going into last week, the team boasted a record of 3-2 but faced off against two tough teams and ended the week with a 3-4 record.
On Dec. 4, the Hawks hosted Westville for their second home game of the season. The Hawks struggled early in the game, only finding the net for four points in the first quarter. The Tigers outscored the Hawks 10-4 in the first eight minutes of play and took the lead going into the second quarter.
The Hawks mounted a stronger offense before the half, managing to score 13 points against the Tigers. Westville hung on to the lead going into halftime with a score of 19-17.
Offensively, Heritage struggled throughout much of the game. They put up 13 points again in the third quarter, but that wasn’t enough to take back the lead from the Tigers’ 17 points in the third. The score going into the final quarter stood at 36-30 in favor of Westville.
With only eight minutes left in the game, the Hawks needed to step up on both offense and defense in order to pull out a win. Heritage couldn’t quite put together the quarter they needed to steal the game from the Tigers, and ended it with a final score of 53-41.
Seniors John Taylor and Brandon Richardson led the Hawks with 11 points each, adding up to just above half of Heritage’s overall points. Senior Austin Dickey came up with six assists for the Hawks and scored the only three-point shot for the game. Cody Reed, senior, also led the team in free throws by hitting four of his six shots in the game.
With only one day of practice, the Hawks traveled to Champaign to face off against Judah Christian on Dec. 6 in a double-header night with the girls’ team. The boys hoped to pull out a win against a strong Tribe team.
Judah Christian pulled out with an early lead of 5-0 until Taylor came through on two free throws that made the score 5-2 after about three and a half minutes of play. The Hawks’ offense struggled a bit and went almost a minute and a half without scoring again. Taylor scored the next two points for Heritage on free throws again and made the score 11-4 in favor of the Tribe.
Offensively, the Hawks pulled together and took the lead with about five seconds left in the quarter off after Richardson got fouled on a shot and sank two free throws to make the score 14-13. That basket would be the last of the quarter, ending the first quarter with a Heritage lead.
The Tribe once again got on the board first, taking back the lead early in the second quarter. Taylor helped the Hawks regain the lead with just over five minutes left in the half with two field goals that put them on top 18-17. Back-to-back three point shots by the Tribe gave them back the lead and lengthened it 23-18. About a minute left in the half, Dickey put up a three-pointer that found the net and made the score 26-24 with the Tribe still on top. Judah Christian managed a few more shots before the end of the half and came away with a 30-24 lead going into the locker room.
Heritage controlled the ball and the pace early in the second half with sophomore Chance Lemmon making good on a three-point shot and Taylor hitting a jump shot that put the Hawks on top 31-30 with about six and a half minutes left in the quarter. The Tribe took back the lead, but with just over three minutes in the quarter left Taylor evened up the score at 35. The Tribe ended the quarter strong though, and took a 39-35 lead going into the final quarter.
Lemmon started out the last eight minutes with another three-point shot that brought the Hawks within one point. The Tribe started to pull away in the final quarter and held a 53-43 lead with only a minute and a half left in the game. Judah Christian went on to put up another four points and held Heritage scoreless, ending the game with a final score of 57-43 in favor of the Tribe.
Taylor came up big for the Hawks against Judah Christian, scoring 26 points in the game. Lemmon added another eight points, including two three-pointers for Heritage.
Heritage head coach Andy Place was happy with the way his team competed, but thought their offense struggled too much.
“We just have to put a full game together,” said Place. “We have to value the basketball more. Right now we are turning over the ball about two of every five possessions. That’s not going to get it done against anybody.”
Place described the Hawks’ offense as “inefficient,” and thinks that puts too much pressure on the defense to be perfect.
“Turning over at that rate, letting the other team come down the court and get easy points just isn’t going to work,” said Place.
The Hawks took a few days to practice and then hosted Tuscola on Dec. 11. Heritage will travel to Salt Fork on Saturday, Dec. 15 before taking a break for the Christmas holiday.