Photo by Bob Cross
Photo by Bob Cross
During halftime of Hamilton Heights 76-61 win at Sheridan Saturday, Huskies head coach Chad Ballenger implored his leaders to step up.

The Blackhawks had just scored six points in 1.7 seconds to end the first half and take a 30-28 lead into the locker room, and Ballenger could see rejection in his players’ eyes.

“They were defeated — it’s a 16-minute second half, but our guys were defeated the way that (first half) ended,” Ballenger said. “They responded, but sometime you have to get punched in the mouth to get back up.”

The Huskies led for most of a back-and-forth first half, but saw their lead disappear in the final moments of the second quarter. With Heights up 28-24, Sheridan’s Sean Weitzel hit a layup and was fouled. After Weitzel converted the old-fashioned 3-point play, the Huskies threw the ball out of bounds on the inbounds pass. Ange Gnamkey made the Huskies pay with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Blackhawks a 30-28 advantage at half.

The Blackhawks stretched their lead to 39-35 a couple minutes into the third, but then Huskies guard Camron Knott got hot.

The sophomore hit two 3’s to help Heights outscore Sheridan 21-16 in the quarter and reclaim a 49-46 lead heading to the fourth. Weitzel opened the final quarter by converting another 3-point play to lock the score at 49, but the Huskies answered with a 16-5 run to pull away. Knott hit three more 3’s in the fourth on his way to a team-high 17 points.

“We were right there with them for the majority of the game until (Knott) decides to hit every shot,” said Sheridan head coach Chris Schrank. “We kind of started pressing a bit. I thought we did a good job into (the third quarter) … (but) we were trying to make up an eight-point deficit in one shot rather than say, ‘we’re going to chip away.’”

The Blackhawks cut the margin to 10 at 65-55, but it was the closest they’d get the rest of the night. A free-throw barrage, and another Knott basket, sealed the win for the Huskies. Heights shot 24-of-44 from the floor as a team, including 7-of-16 from behind the arc. Knott made five of his 10 3’s.

“Knott was definitely the game-changer,” Ballenger said. “When he came in and hit those (3-pointers), it changed the momentum — it sparked us — I thought we played harder.”

Gnamkey led the Blackhawks in points and rebounds with a game-high 18 and seven, respectively. Drake Delph finished with 10 points, while Weitzel scored 13 and earned the praise of his coach.

“He’s put a couple games together where I think he’s giving us a lot better effort — playing hard and making things happen,” Schrank said. “If he keeps doing those kind of things, he’s going to work his way into finding more minutes.”

Sheridan went 22-of-41 from the field as a team and hit 5-of-12 from deep. The Huskies made 19 free throws to the Blackhawks 12, while Sheridan held a 29-28 edge on the glass.

Gus Etchison finished second on the Huskies in points with 15, Caleb Bean scored 14 and Michael Cross added 10. Max Beale led Heights with six assists.