Heritage Christian an unlikely sectional champ

Heritage Christian an unlikely sectional champ

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Heritage Christian an unlikely sectional champ

Andrew Williams is averaging 10.9 points and 4.8 assists per game.

Andrew Williams is averaging 10.9 points and 4.8 assists per game.

Maybe no team playing in a high school basketball regional on Saturday seemed as far away from a potential tournament run as Heritage Christian a year ago at this time.

The Eagles were bounced in the first round of its Class 2A sectional against Scecina to complete a 4-18 season. Three of those wins came against Class A or non-Indiana High School Athletic Association opponents. But coach Corey Jackson, now in his fourth season, could see progress beyond the win-loss record.

“We were in a lot of close games, we just couldn’t finish them,” Jackson said. “Winning four games isn’t where we wanted to be but I knew we were better than our record. I always felt good about the direction we were headed.”

Heritage Christian set out this season with two goals: to win a sectional title and to achieve the biggest turnaround in program history. The Eagles have followed through on both counts, taking a 15-9 record into Saturday’s regional semifinal at noon against No. 10 Shenandoah (20-4).

Those close losses a year ago have turned into close wins this season. During its current seven-game winning streak, Heritage Christian has four wins by three points or less. And they came over four quality opponents in Guerin Catholic, Brebeuf Jesuit, University and Scecina.

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“When we were finally able to close it out against teams like Brebeuf and Guerin, that’s when we knew we could beat good teams,” said sophomore Andrew Williams. “Those games boosted our confidence.”

It’s fitting, perhaps, that emergence of Williams has coincided with Heritage Christian’s surge. The 5-10 Williams isn’t the most intimidating looking player in the city. “Physically, I probably look like the worst player on the court.”

But looks can be deceiving. Williams has a knack for making the right pass and the right time, leading the Eagles with 4.8 assists per game. He’s also averaging 10.9 points, which is second on the team to 6-2 junior Zach Meus (15.7 ppg, 6.3 rebounds).

“It’s amazing what he can do with the ball,” Meus said of Williams. “He can see the court so well. I think some teams maybe look at him and think he’s small and not very strong, but I think people are starting to respect him now. He gets me a lot of layups, I know that.”

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The Eagles haven’t been to a regional since the 2008 season under former coach Cary Chandler. It had been five years, in fact, since the program posted a winning record, going 13-10 in 2011-12. This year’s team got a boost when 6-6 senior Hayden Wynja, a Purdue baseball recruit, returned from injury after seven games. Wynja is averaging 9.6 points and 5.9 rebounds and shooting 36 percent from the 3-point line.

Kyle Somers, a 6-4 junior, averages 6.0 points and 4.2 rebounds. The core is there for Heritage Christian to build off this year’s success and take it into next season.

“I’m not sure we go on a run if Kyle Somers doesn’t hit a three to beat Guerin,” Jackson said. “Sometimes you can track it back to one play. That was a huge shot for us that kind of got us going. We don’t have any superstars but we have a team that fits well together.”

Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649. Follow him on Twitter: @KyleNeddenriep.

Class 4A

At Logansport

Matchups: Homestead (23-3) vs. Fort Wayne North Side (24-2) at 10 a.m.; Carmel (21-4) vs. McCutcheon (23-2) at noon; Championship at 8 p.m.

Outlook: Carmel coach Scott Heady is looking to go out on a high note before taking over full time at Marian University. The sixth-ranked Greyhounds were perhaps a surprise winner of Sectional 8 without leading scorer Sterling Brown (17.4 ppg), a senior who is a serving a five-game suspension. Brown could be back for the night game if Carmel can get past No. 5 McCutcheon in a rematch of last year’s 56-54 overtime win for McCutcheon in the regional semifinals. The Mavericks, last year’s state runner-up, are led by junior Robert Phinisee (21.4 ppg, 6.9 assists), senior Haden Deaton (18.6 ppg, 6.8 rebounds) and senior Eddy Collins (14.2 ppg). Fourth-ranked North Side might be the most talented team in the state, led by 6-8 sophomore Keion Brooks (21.7 ppg, 7.5 rebounds) and 6-11 senior Jaylen Butz (17.4 ppg, 12.3 rebounds). North Side defeated Homestead 62-60 during the season. The Spartans, a regional finalist last year (losing to McCutcheon), is led by 6-3 senior Jack Ferguson (19.3 ppg, 3.3 assists) and 6-6 senior Brandon Durnell (16.1 ppg, 7.3 rebounds). Homestead is two years removed from its only state title.

At Southport

Matchups: Brownsburg (18-6) vs. Connersville (26-1) at 10 a.m.; North Central (23-4) vs. Ben Davis (19-5) at noon; Championship at 8 p.m.

Outlook: Get there early. Connersville will bring a lot of folks wearing red and white. The Spartans, coming off the program’s first sectional title since 1997, are back again and looking for more. Connersville, which won six overtime games during the season, is led by 6-6 senior Grant Smith (19.0 ppg, 10.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists). Brownsburg, just 5-18 last year, won its third sectional in four years under coach Steve Lynch. The Bulldogs are led by the duo of 6-foot sophomore Cameron Alford (17.3 ppg) and 6-4 senior Landon Hall (15.1 ppg, 5.2 rebounds). The second game is a matchup of Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference rivals. Seventh-ranked North Central took both meetings over Ben Davis during the season, winning 68-57 and 70-59 over a five-day span in January. The Panthers, led by seniors Kris Wilkes, Mateo Rivera and Emmanuel Little, made relatively easy work of Sectional 10. But after last year’s loss to Terre Haute South in the regional semifinal, Doug Mitchell’s team is looking for a lot more. Ben Davis is one of the teams that can match North Central physically, led by 6-6 junior Aaron Henry, 6-4 senior Josh Brewer and 6-foot senior point guard Datrion Harper. This is the Giants first sectional title since 2010 and first in Mark James’ six seasons as coach. This the 79th meeting between the programs and the series is tied 39-39.p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Calibri}span.s1 {font-kerning: none}

At Seymour

Matchups: Center Grove (17-7) vs. New Albany (24-3) at 10 a.m.; Bloomington South (22-4) vs. Castle (22-3) at noon; Championship at 8 p.m.

Outlook: Can Center Grove spring the upset of defending state champion and top-ranked New Albany? The Trojans have won six of their last seven games and nine of 12 since losing to Whiteland in the Johnson County tournament. Trayce Jackson-Davis, a 6-8 sophomore, is averaging 12.2 points and 9.0 rebounds, and 6-foot sophomore Spencer Piercefield (12.1 ppg) and 6-1 senior Travis Roehling (11.2 ppg) are also threats on offense. It’s a tall task, however, with 6-4 junior Romeo Langford (29 ppg) looking to lead the Bulldogs to another state title. He has help from experienced senior Isaac Hibbard, junior Sean East and 6-3 freshman Julien Hunter. Bloomington South might be a year away from being a state title contender, led by junior Chance Coyle. Castle is the highest scoring team in the state (81.8 ppg), led by 6-9 senior Iowa recruit Jack Nunge (22.4 ppg, 10.8 rebounds), sophomore Alex Hemenway (15.0 ppg) and senior Payton Mills (12.6 ppg). Castle’s last regional title was 2012, while Bloomington South last won a regional in 2011 and went on to win state.

Class 3A

At Greencastle

Matchups: Northview (18-8) vs. Crispus Attucks (21-4) at 10 a.m.; Tri-West (22-3) vs. Danville (19-8) at noon; Championship at 8 p.m.

Outlook: Fourth-ranked Attucks is riding an 11-game winning streak and is second in the state in scoring (79.6 points per game). The Tigers are led by 6-3 senior Nike Sibande (23.1 ppg, 7.3 rebounds), but he is hardly the only threat. Seniors Teyon Scanlan (12.4 ppg), Alex Cooley (11.9 ppg) and Zac Owens (11.1 ppg) also are averaging in double figures. Attucks is aiming for its first regional title since 1970. Northview is in the regional for the second consecutive year after edging Edgewood 73-71 in the sectional final. Northview is similarly balanced with five starters averaging between 10 and 15 points. Ninth-ranked Tri-West is looking to win the regional for second consecutive year riding a 12-game winning streak. The Bruins are led by junior Tyler Watson and senior Peyton Hendershot, the latter returning from a foot injury to play in the sectional. Tri-West defeated Danville twice during the season, 52-40 and 68-55. Danville rebounded from a tough January to win eight of 10 games. Junior Alec Burton (17.2 ppg, 11.0 rebounds) and senior Zach Callahan (13.6 ppg) lead the Warriors.

Class 2A

At Greenfield-Central

Matchups: Cloverdale (21-6) vs. Northeastern (21-5) at 10 a.m.; Shenandoah (20-4) vs. Heritage Christian (15-9) at noon; Championship at 8 p.m.

Outlook: Three of the state’s top-10 leading scorers will take the floor in the first regional semifinal. Cloverdale senior and Butler recruit Cooper Neese is averaging 27.4 points and has scored 2,476 points to rank seventh in state history. His teammate, junior Jalen Moore, is averaging 27.3 points per game. Northeastern guard and Ball State recruit Tyler Smith is the program’s all-time leading scorer and is averaging 24.8 points per game. Cloverdale is in the regional for a third consecutive year but hasn’t won a regional since 1983. This is Northeastern’s fourth consecutive sectional title but the Knights have never won a regional. Shenandoah has a local connection with former Noblesville coach Dave McCullough in his second season with the Raiders, who have won a regional twice (1981 and 2001). Heritage Christian’s only regional title came in 2006.

Class A

At Martinsville

Matchups: Tindley (20-5) vs. Shakamak (15-10) at 10 a.m.; Hauser (16-9) vs. Lutheran (11-12) at noon; Championship at 8 p.m.

Outlook: Is this Tindley’s year to break through? The Tigers are in the regional for a third consecutive year and probably have their best overall team. Junior guard Eric Hunter (26.8 ppg) is one of the state’s leading scorers, and junior teammates Hunter White (17.5 ppg, 6.2 rebounds) and K.J. Coleman (11.2 ppg) are also standouts. Shakamak struggled down the stretch, losing its last four regular season games before rebounding to win the sectional. The Lakers are led by Tanner Yeryar (21.5 ppg). Lutheran is one of three Class A teams with losing records still playing. The Saints are led by seniors Brandon Perry (16.2 ppg, 4.2 rebounds) and Zach White (11.9 ppg, 6.0 rebounds). Hauser won a Class A state title in 2006, also the last time it won a regional. 

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