Hart boys hoops holds off relentless Canyon

Hart's Brady Dunlap (15) blocks a shot by Canyon's Miles Davis (3) at Canyon High on Tuesday, January 14, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Basketball is a game of runs and it only takes one to snatch a win.

Hart boys basketball defeated Canyon, 67-62, Tuesday night in a tightly-contested match that was decided by one run at Canyon High School.

“I thought both teams before the game were evenly matched,” said Canyon head coach Sean DeLong. “It was going to come down to who executed better. I was proud of the boys. I thought they competed for all 32 minutes.”

Neither team would give in throughout the entire contest. The Indians (12-9 overall, 2-1 league) went on a 9-1 run in the final two minutes of the first half, which ended up being the difference in the game. Both teams continued to battle to the final whistle.

Canyon’s Matt Heyne (33) drives past Hart’s Brady Dunlap (15) at Canyon High on Tuesday, January 14, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

“I thought it was two teams just battling,” said Hart head coach Tom Kelly. “Both teams played really hard. Canyon’s gotten a lot better over the last two years. I give them a lot of credit. They compete every possession.”

A clash of opposite offenses produced a high scoring first quarter and eventually a game that did not disappoint. Even the final play of the first quarter was electric and gave the fans a taste of what they were in for. 

Hart’s Dillon Barrientos sank two free throws with two seconds left in the quarter to bring the Cowboys’ (11-10, 1-2) lead down to one point. After being inbounded the ball, Canyon’s Paul Sekyi-Appiah drained a half-court buzzer-beater. The entire gym broke out in cheers so loud that thoughts couldn’t be heard.

“My team and I, we were really hyped about it,” Sekyi-Appiah said. “We loved it.”

The Cowboys led at the end of the first, 23-19.

The second quarter proved less fruitful for Canyon. It only scored seven points while the Indians doubled their point total. With 2:25 left in the half, Dillon Barrientos knocked down two more free throws to tie the game at 29. A Brady Dunlap 3-pointer began the 9-1 run that gave Hart the space it needed and 38-30 halftime lead.

Hart’s Dillon Barrientos (3) shoots against Canyon’s Darius Berko (34) at Canyon High on Tuesday, January 14, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

“We got some penetration,” Kelly said. “We just stayed aggressive on offense.”

As he has proven to be in the past, Barrientos was a large part of Hart’s run at the end of the half. He even made sure the Cowboys wouldn’t have a chance to cut into the lead on a prayer shot at the end, using the final 20 seconds all to himself to drive to the basket for two points.

“I was just playing hard and I was trying to get the ball to the open man, or if I’m open, I just shoot the ball,” he said.

Hart attempted to pull away in the second half, but Canyon refused to let go. The Cowboys even climbed back within four points before the Penberthy brothers scored eight straight points on a lay-in from Ty and two back-to-back three’s from Jaden. Twelve points was Hart’s biggest lead of the game.

Both teams continued to go back and forth until the last four minutes of the game. Sekyi-Appiah orchestrated a 3-point-play followed by a Matt Heyne lay in assisted by Connor Cooper. A foul on the other end broke up the momentum and Hart stretched its lead again.

With 1:26 left to play, Canyon’s Brandon Boldroff stole the ball from Barrientos for a fastbreak lay-in to give the Cowboys a spark. They began to intentionally foul to prevent the Indians from cutting clock. The fouls gave Barrientos another five free throws and Ty Penberthy two. They each missed one.

Sekyi-Appiah stepped up once again as a leader for the Cowboys to help design another comeback in the final 18 seconds. As he surveyed the court, the crowd chanted his name. 

Hart’s Ty Penberthy (2) tries to drive through Canyon defenders Anthony Gallo (2) and Hatt Heyne (33) at Canyon High on Tuesday, January 14, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

“I felt really good about it,” he said. “I felt like I had a lot of people supporting me and I was able to try and do my job.”

His leadership gave Heyne an opportunity to knock down two more three’s, but the Cowboy comeback come up short.

“I was proud of our guys coming back, we just didn’t have enough time at the end,” DeLong said. “They’re never going to quit. They’re going to give me everything they have, and I love them for it.”

The Cowboys will continue their four-game homestand with game number three against Saugus on Friday. The Indians will also play on Friday at West Ranch. Both games are at 6:30 p.m.

“This is such a hard place to play, so this is a really good road win for us,” Kelly said.

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