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By STEPHEN SWISHER
FOR THE LEADER
BROADLANDS — A host school wants the chance to play for a regional championship.
The Heritage boys basketball team put itself in this position last week, but the Hawks saw their season end short of walking off its home floor with any postseason hardware.
Heritage lost 52-46 to Cissna Park last Friday in the Class 1A Heritage Regional championship game, which came after a 49-46 win against Judah Christian last Wednesday in a regional semifinal game and a 63-43 win against Urbana University High on Feb. 19 in a regional quarterfinal game.
Cissna Park 52,
The top-seeded Timberwolves built a seven-point halftime lead to deliver the win against Heritage, which lost for the first time since falling to Shiloh on Jan. 26 in the championship game of the Little Okaw Valley Conference Tournament and had an eight-game winning streak snapped.
Cissna Park (19-10) was led by senior Cole Hasselbring, who scored a game-high 26 points as the Timberwolves led 14-9 at the end of the first quarter and 28-21 at halftime.
Heritage — which received a team-high 16 points from senior forward John Taylor to go along with seven points from senior forward D.J. Robertson and six points apiece from senior guards Cody Reed and Austin Dickey — cut into its deficit and only trailed 40-36 to start the fourth quarter before holding on for the victory.
Judah Christian 46
Senior Brandon Richardson led the way for the Hawks with a game-high 17 points to send Heritage into the regional championship game.
Taylor added 13 points and Dickey chipped in nine points.
Logan Chitty led Judah Christian with 13 points while Nick Berger and Dylan Hamilton each scored 10 points.
Urbana Uni High 43
Despite a slow start, the Hawks avenged last season’s postseason-opening loss to the Illineks.
Heritage held a slim 22-17 lead at halftime before eventually pulling away in the second half.
“Coach always tells us that 99 percent of the game is what we do and only 1 percent is what the other team does,” Taylor said. “In the first half we didn’t bring the 99 percent.”
In the third quarter both teams seemed to wake up and get into the swing of things, but it was Uni High which landed the first punch. The Illineks outscored the Hawks 13-4 in the first four minutes of the second half to take a 30-26 lead. A putback by Taylor — who finished with a game-high 25 points — gave the Hawks the lead for good.
“We needed to change the game around,” Taylor said. “We had to come out of halftime and work hard at starting out strong.”
The fourth quarter belonged solely to Heritage, which scored more in one quarter than they did in the entire first half, outscoring Uni High 30-13.
Richardson (12 points) started the run when he made both free throws to give Heritage a 35-30 lead.
Taylor scored seven straight points to kick off a 10-2 run, and sophomore guard Jordan Wolf converted a traditional three-point play to up Heritage’s lead to 45-35.
That is when Uni High tried to implement a fullcourt press that might have gotten the Illineks back in the game.
It did the exact opposite, with Heritage outscoring Uni High 16-5 and easily breaking the press.
“We worked on beating the press in practice,” Richardson said. “We knew if we came out and killed the press and took it to them we would have a chance to win.”
“Brandon and I know where we are on the floor,” he said, “and how to hit the open guy to attack the rim.”