Grant Weatherford and the Hamilton Heights Huskies won big against Sheridan on Saturday night. Photo by Bob Cross.
Grant Weatherford and the Hamilton Heights Huskies won big against Sheridan on Saturday night. Photo by Bob Cross.
ARCADIA - Grant Weatherford doesn't have anything left to prove.

With his future at Purdue University already set and a recent nominee for the 2015 McDonald's All-American Game, the Hamilton Heights senior standout could simply walk away.

But that's not in the 6-foot-2 point guard's makeup - despite the torn ligaments in his right ankle.

Pushing through the injury he suffered during the Bob Wettig Tournament in Richmond earlier this month, Weatherford put on a defensive display Saturday night, locking down the Sheridan Blackhawks to lead the Huskies in a lopsided 78-37 victory.

"We needed this a lot, not from a personal standpoint but as a team," said Weatherford, who has been wearing a walking boot the past few weeks whenever he's off the court. "We have players down, Garrett Paull and my brother (Sterling). Other people need to step up, and this game, after a rough one last night, really showed that we can still have fun and compete at a high level."

To call the Class 3A Huskies' season a grind would be an understatement.

After opening the year 5-2, Hamilton Heights has amassed a frustrating 10-7 record. They entered their second back-to-back weekend this month on the losing end in two of its last three.

Narrowly falling to Mid-State Conference rival Easter (Greentown) on Friday night 53-52, the loss marked the program's first defeat to a non-ranked (or previously ranked) opponent this season.

"We've lost a lot of close games to a lot of really good teams. Last night really stung, but we just weren't ready intensity wise," Hamilton Heights head coach Chad Ballenger said. "Tonight, from the get go, we were ready."

Led by feisty pressure defense from Weatherford, Jadon White and Hunter Crist, the Huskies blitzed the 2A Blackhawks (4-8) to take a quick 9-0 lead and regain some swagger.

Weatherford recorded four of his team-high seven steals in the first half, which led to easy transition buckets and numerous high-percentage shots for his teammates.

"The last couple of games, I wouldn't necessarily say I went away from it, but with my injury I was kind of hesitant about what I was capable of doing on defense," Weatherford said. "Tonight, I told coach I was just going with it, and we got after it. We pushed the tempo, and we got in the passing lanes to get steals, which created offense for us."

White, who recently signed his letter of intent with Cincinnati Christian University, was one of the primary beneficiaries.

The 6-3 guard finished with a game-high 16 points on 6 of 16 shooting, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range. White added six rebounds and three steals as Weatherford connected with him on several of his team-best eight assists.

Weatherford nearly matched White with 14 points on a perfect night from the floor, hitting all six of his shots from the field and a pair of free throws.

Crist had 13 points (3-for-7 from 3-point range), four assists and three steals. Alex Trachtman contributed 10 points off the bench, burying 3 of 4 jumpers from beyond the arc.

The Huskies had 19 steals and grabbed 19 defensive rebounds with 35 boards overall. Their defensive tenacity led to 28 turnovers by Sheridan and a 45-26 lead by halftime.

"We knew that coming in, but it's tough to prepare for that in practice," Sheridan head coach Chris Shrank remarked on Hamilton Heights' defensive press and traps. "You have to be physical enough to handle that and try to match it, but it's a different ball game when the ball goes up and they're coming after you like that."

Sheridan didn't cower away from the challenge, though.

Coming off a solid 65-62 win against 2A Elwood last weekend, the Blackhawks rallied back and tied the game at 11 behind a Brock Kitchel 3-pointer midway through the first quarter.

Consecutive baskets from Elliott Barker and Chris Roberts pulled Sheridan within seven points with a shade under six minutes left in the second quarter.

Jacob Chesney led the Blackhawks with 13 points on 4 of 7 shooting. He was 5-for-8 from the charity stripe.

Kitchel scored seven points while Roberts and Barker combined for nine points and 10 rebounds.

However, the Huskies responded in the second quarter, applying the pressure once again to go on a decisive 12-0 run capped by a pair of treys from White.

"It wears on you, but we fought and we battled. They didn't quit, and that's what we're trying to do. That's what we're trying to build. That's what we want to see," Shrank said. "We're happy with the effort. That's growth. In our conference games and sectional ahead, that's going to pay off for us."

The Huskies' largest lead of the night reached 43 points early in the fourth quarter off a 3-pointer by Trachtman. Hamilton Heights went 12 of 24 from deep.

"Grant's defense really got us going," Ballenger said. "We had some guys really step up for us, and we needed that really bad. That's a great way to bounce back.

"Now, we just need to get healthy."

According to Ballenger, the return of Paull (high-arch injury), a 6-6 senior forward, remains week-to-week while 6-5 wing Sterling Weatherford (knee) could possibly rejoin the team sometime next month.

With 10 games packed into this month and two more double weekends left on the schedule before an off week in February, the Huskies remain focused on their goals - winning the MIC and making a run at sectional.

"We're dealing with a lot more adversity then we did last year, and it's really going to help us down the stretch," said Weatherford, who intends to play the remainder of the year while rehabbing his ankle. "I really think we can compete with every team as long as we keep our heads and play together."