Hart boys basketball will head into league play confidently after a decisive 63-52 victory over Knight High School Thursday night at Hart High School.
“I think we played great as a team,” said junior Jaden Penberthy. “We’ll see what happens during league.”
Early on, the game looked as if it could go either way. Neither team would allow its competitor to get the edge. The Indians won the tipoff, but the Hawks gained possession almost immediately on an interception as Hart attempted to attack the basket.
Despite the early turnover, Hart got on the board first in what became a back-and-forth battle in the first quarter. Anytime the Indians scored, Knight responded before they could pull away.
“We took two days off and it kind of showed,” said head coach Tom Kelly. “We were a little lethargic at times.”
A sleepy start to the game was kicked into gear when junior Isaac Deedon (10 points, three assists) lobbed the ball up to the basket. Penberthy (11 points, five rebounds) launched towards the ball and threw it down into the basket. The student section erupted as the Indians trotted back to the other end of the court. Murmurs of the dunk could be heard coming from the student section even late into the third quarter.
“It was my first one in-game,” said Penberthy. “I’m really pumped about it. Last year I could barely touch the rim, so it’s a big accomplishment for me.”
Hart lost the lead for the first time with 2:43 remaining in the first quarter. However, the Indians would not back down. Penberthy served a pass to junior Sam Goldman (six points) who hit a three from the corner to give the Indians back the lead. There were four lead changes in the final three minutes.
With the shot clock off, junior Dillon Barrientos (12 points, seven rebounds) surveyed the court as he crept forward. A quick pass to Goldman ended in his second three of the game as time expired. The Indians ended the first quarter with a 14-13 lead.
“I was just trying to look for the open man, shoot whenever I was open and just play basketball,” said Barrientos. “I always hold it at the end because it stops the other team from getting the ball.”
The start of the second quarter continued where the first left off. The first two-and-a-half minutes saw another four lead changes. The Hawks began to pull away, but a Barrientos three followed by a layup from him put the Indians back on top. They would not look back from there as the last lead change of the game happened with 4:02 left in the first half.
The second quarter ended nearly identically to the first. Barrientos observed the court on a slow approach. He wiped both shoes yet again before firing a pass to Deedon. This time Deedon would pick up the assist and Penberthy would knock down the 3-point shot as the clock approached 0:00. Hart went into the locker room up 36-25.
“We talk about clock management,” said Kelly. “We wanted to take the last shot. If we scored, great. If we didn’t, well that’s OK, but they don’t get another shot. [Barrientos] makes so many plays for himself and other people.”
The pace slowed down again after both teams returned from the break. A minute and a half went by with both teams unable to create any sort of offense.
“They zoned us, so we stopped attacking and settled for quick jump shots,” said Kelly. “We’ve got to keep getting the ball inside to even play inside out.”
Deedon opened the second-half scoring with a steal and an unassisted layup on a fastbreak.
Hart tried to build upon their lead but got nowhere as both teams scored seven points in the third quarter. With 37 seconds remaining before the final period, Knight attempted to bring the game within two possessions, but the layup basket was negated on a charging foul.
The Indians were hot from behind the arc. They ended the third quarter with another 3-point shot. This time, Barrientos laid down the corner shot courtesy of Penberthy as the buzzer sounded. Hart ended the game with 12 baskets from behind the arc.
“We always talk about move and share,” said Kelly. “We shoot the ball so well. If we move the ball and share the ball, then it’s hard for anybody to key on one or two guys because we have multiple guys who can score.”
The three-parade continued at the start of the fourth quarter as Penberthy drained another long-range shot. Hart was able to extend its lead to 20 points before Kelly swapped his entire squad with bench players with just over three minutes to play.
In the final minutes of the game, Knight chipped away at Hart’s lead. The Indians managed to maintain an 11-point lead for the third quarter in a row at the final buzzer.
“It’s a good win before league,” said Kelly. “Now, all six teams in league start 0-0. It should be fun.”
The Indians enter league play next week. They will take on Golden Valley at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 7 at Golden Valley High School.