HUNGTINBURG - The Washington Hatchets battled hard but weren’t quite able to seal the deal as Heritage Hills moved onto the championship game of Sectional 31 with a 41-38 win at Memorial Gymnasium on Friday.
Washington (7-15) trailed Heritage Hills (17-6) for much of the game but always stayed within striking distance until Matthew Stephens scored in the lane with 4:03 to play to give the Hatchets their first lead since the first quarter at 33-32.
From that point the lead went back and forth, with the Hatchets building as much as a three-point lead at 38-35 on a bucket by Colton Garland - who led WHS with 15 points - just 2:20 from the end of the game.
But each time the Patriots would answer, and the Hatchets, who were 10-10 from the free throw line to that point in the game, missed a pair of one-and-one’s in the final 2:00. Heritage Hills regained the lead on a basket by their leading scorer on the night, Spenser Minto, with :56 left.
On the Hatchets’ next possession Washington got the ball to Garland, whose long jumper was off with 8.2 seconds left. Minto was fouled on the rebound and hit both charity tosses to give the Patriots a 41-38 lead.
Washington got the ball to Ghirardelli on its final possession, but his long shot from well behind the 3-point line was no good as time expired.
Washington coach Gene Miiller was proud of his team following the game, not just for how they played on Friday but how his youthful Hatchets performed in the second half of the season.
“The effort was there, we played extremely hard, as we have the second half of the season. We played hard, we played together, we had that three-point lead and missed some free throws,” said Miiller. “But they (Heritage Hills) are a good basketball team. I knew it was going to be tough, and it was tough.