Heritage, Judah set regional date
BROADLANDS — Senior Night had come and gone at Heritage High School.
With six healthy seniors — a seventh is injured — and rules limiting teams to five starters per game, Heritage coach Andy Place was in a dilemma.
Which player wouldn’t get the honor of starting in his final regular season home game?
It was less of a concern this season for Place, whose school is hosting a Class 1A boys’ basketball regional tournament this week.
The coach made certain senior Cole Graham had a spot in the starting lineup Tuesday as the Hawks rallied from a second-half deficit to topple Urbana Uni High 63-43 in a quarterfinal game.
Graham is the Hawks’ newest player, yet a familiar one to his classmates. He grew up in Homer and was in school in the district through sixth grade. He then moved to Bloomington but didn’t play basketball.
Though inexperienced at the varsity level, Place welcomed the new addition, and he hasn’t been disappointed.
“He has improved us and helped in every practice,” Place said. “He has a great attitude and has made us a lot better.”
Tuesday’s game marked the fifth one Graham has played. He didn’t score, but he joined seniors Austin Dickey, Cody Reed, Brandon Richardson and D.J. Robertson in the starting lineup.
That left another senior, 6-foot-5 John Taylor, in a rare reserve role. He scored 23 of his game-high 25 points after the first quarter and cleared 15 of his game-high 16 rebounds during the final 24 minutes.
“John has the ability to do that,” Place said. “Tonight was a big game for him. He was able to control both ends of the court.”
Another non-starter also flourished. Sophomore Jordan Wolf knocked down two of the team’s three three-pointers and scored 15 points. Behind him was Richardson with 14 points.
“Wolf has come on strong the second half of the year,” Place said.
Heritage (18-11), which has wins in 11 of its last 12 games, trailed the Illineks (8-17) 28-26 with less than 21/2 minutes remaining in the third period.
Thirteen-of-15 accuracy from the field in the fourth quarter helped the home team score 30 of its 63 points over those eight minutes and pull away.
Place is pleased that an area of emphasis this season is one the team has taken to heart.
“We try to pinpoint where we’re weak and tell them to improve 1 percent every day,” he said. “We have been able to do that. It’s good that we’re playing our best at the end of the season.”
Richardson hauled down eight rebounds for Heritage, which returns tonight to face Judah Christian in a semifinal game. A tip-in by Taylor with 1:30 left in the third quarter sent the Hawks ahead to stay, 31-30.
Tarik Koric led the Illineks with 13 points. Taharka Baraka had 11 points, and George Voulgaris finished with nine points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Judah Christian 62, Armstrong-Potomac 38. Dylan Hamilton (21 points), Krys McClure (16 points) and Myles Roosevelt (10 points) all scored in double figures for the second-seeded Tribe, which scored the first 10 points and never trailed.
Roosevelt buried a three-pointer 24 seconds into the game to open the scoring.
Equally important to the offensive outburst was another factor, according to Judah coach Mike Chitty.
“Our rebounding effort was the difference,” Chitty said.
Parkland College golf recruit Nick Berger hauled down nine of his game-high 13 rebounds in the second quarter.
“That’s back-to-back 13-rebound games for Nick,” Chitty said. “He’s strong as an ox and is finding his confidence. He has come a long ways since our first tournament.”
Despite four athletes who stand at least 6-4 — including the 6-8 Berger — Chitty said, “we haven’t been a dominating rebounding team, but the past few weeks we’ve been more active on the boards.”
Krys McClure, a four-year letterman, scored 10 of his points in the third quarter as Judah (14-9) pulled away. The 6-4 McClure finished with eight rebounds.
“He’s a senior who steps up in big games,” said Chitty, who is glad his 14-9 team remained in contention.
“Everyone is desperate to play on,” he said. “We’re honored to play again. We didn’t play great, but we played well enough.”
Senior Wade Rogers led the Trojans with 10 points and four rebounds. Teammate Blake Davis hit two three-pointers for A-P, which played Judah virtually even the final 10 minutes of the first half, trailing 13-12 over that period.