Sacred Heart got an 11-point first quarter from Malik Hackett, a 10-point second quarter from Garrett Strange and an 11-point fourth quarter from Riley Simmons to close out the regular season with a 69-43 home win over Stover on Thursday.
“It’s great because our team doesn’t really care who scores,” Strange said. “We each share the ball well.”
Hackett finished with 18. Strange had 17 and Simmons 11.
Hackett also made an impressive series of plays at the end of the third quarter, nearly grabbing a steal near midcourt before flying into the scorer’s table, rushing to block a shot in the paint, then rushing back in the other direction and hitting a layup just before the third quarter buzzer to make it 47-26 Gremlins.
“I think he’s a tremendous athlete,” said Sacred Heart coach Steve Goodwin. “He’s unselfish. He’s a good kid. His teammates like playing with him. They know they can expect a pass at any time.”
Sacred Heart hit seven 3-pointers in the game, with Simmons contributing three in the span of five possessions in the fourth quarter.
Stover got 11 points from Garrett Goetze, including six in the first quarter.
“They dropped their pressure back,” said Stover coach Mike Schwartz. “That isn’t the way they usually play but they did cut us off from getting the ball inside and from getting our offensive rebounds that we were getting quite a few of in the first half.”
Sacred Heart was able to get in transition, turning 23 Bulldogs turnovers into 20 points.
“They get it out and they go,” Schwartz said. “We got back sometimes as quick as we could but didn’t pick up the ball very well. Sometimes we had everybody back but didn’t pick up the ball and they ended up with an easy one. They do a very good job of that. To cut them off would be a monumental chore.”
Sacred Heart spotted Stover a 7-2 lead before rushing back. Chase Lyles, Hackett and Chance Spangler all hit 3-pointers from the left corner as part of a 15-2 run.
“The biggest shot of the night I thought was Chancellor Spangler hitting that 3-pointer in the first quarter,” Goodwin said. “He’s struggled shooting the ball from range all year. I know he’s a good player. He had a really good ballgame.”
The Gremlins led 17-9 before Stover closed the first quarter with a 6-2 run.
Sacred Heart opened the second quarter with four steals in five possessions, the first two by Strange.
“Coach switched the defense and we just pressured them to make passes well,” Strange said.
His first steal led to a putback on the other end. After the next, he fed Clint Spangler, who drew a foul. Strange then hit baskets on the next two possessions, the second following a steal by Lyles.
“My teammates kept giving me the ball and I finished,” Strange said.
Later in the quarter, Strange added a layup and a basket in the lane.
“I think he’s getting better every game,” Goodwin said. “I think he’s our best all-around player offensively, defensively.”
The Gremlins led by as many as 15 in the second quarter before Stover rallied. Brock Nolting hit a putback and Joe Haynes got a steal and a layup to make it a 34-24 Gremlin lead at the half.
Haynes opened the third quarter with a layup to cut the lead to eight, but Sacred Heart scored the next 13 points to lead 47-26 after three.
In the fourth quarter, Stover got five points from Jordan French and three each from Goetze, Haynes and McKenzie Knuth, but could never get closer than 19 points.
Sacred Heart finished the regular season 21-4 overall and 8-1 in the Kaysinger Conference in a year where the Gremlins had to replace the entire starting lineup.
“The team is starting to jell at the right time,” Goodwin said. “For this group to win 21 games going into districts, I’m pretty proud of them.”
The Gremlins will open district play against La Monte at noon Saturday at Sweet Springs.
Stover (7-18, 4-5) will open play in Class 2, District 8 against Linn at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Russellville.
Sacred Heart vs. La Monte
Noon Saturday at Class 2, District 14 tournament in Sweet Springs
Stover vs. Linn
8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Class 2, District 8 tournament in Russellville