After not making the playoffs a year ago, the Hart boys basketball 2019-20 season came to an end in a 65-58 loss to Hillcrest in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA quarterfinals at Hart High School on Tuesday.
“We didn’t have a good effort tonight,” said Hart head coach Tom Kelly. “We looked a step slow on both sides of the ball. We didn’t have a pep in our step and we were just slow to everything.”
Hosting the River Valley League’s undefeated champion, Indians senior Ty Penberthy went up against Hillcrest’s Sebastian Mendoza to finish with a team-high 19 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Mendoza finished with a game-high 28 points in the win.
Early on, Hart (18-13 overall) went to Ruke Agbabune, who took advantage of the soft defense and kicked the night’s scoring off with five straight points, hitting a corner three and a floater in the lane to take a 5-0 advantage.
Hillcrest countered by switching to a zone defense, which halted the Indians scoring for a bit while Mendoza went to work.
The Hillcrest senior served as the floor general and either methodically worked his way into the lane or dished to teammates like Chris Anderson for perimeter shots.
“We didn’t help soon enough and he got into the paint too easily,” Kelly said of the defense on Mendoza.
Once Hart freshman Brady Dunlap entered the game, the Indians started to feed the high post to counter the 2-3 zone. Dunlap hit two jumpers within 10 feet of the basket, but still, the Indians couldn’t get the looks they wanted.
“We wanted to get the ball in the baseline, but we played catch around the horn too much, instead of getting on the baseline and attacking,” Kelly said.
Dunlap finished with eight points and four rebounds.
The Indians took a brief 19-18 lead with a little over five minutes remaining as Penberthy found Isaac Deedon in the corner for a 3-pointer and on the ensuing Hart possession, Deedon returned the favor and spotted Penberthy for a three of his own.
However, Hillcrest (23-8) finished out the half on a 14-5 run and held a 32-24 advantage at the break.
With the lead in hand, Mendoza imposed his will on both sides of the ball. Using his physicality, Mendoza got to the rim multiple times and either converted the bucket or got fouled and went to the free-throw line.
Penberthy sensed a momentum shift and scored five of seven Hart points to get the Indians within nine, down 43-36 with 1:48 left in the third.
“He was competitive,” Kelly said. “He was going to the rim, guarding their best guys and hitting shots for us. He did it all year.”
Down the stretch, the Lancers extended the lead to 59-42 with under five minutes remaining, but Hart seniors – Coby Lonsinger, Asjan Fisher, Braedon Keeley, Isaiah Marquez and Penberthy – narrowed the gap to single digits.
Hart bows out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals, but next year’s returning players got a taste of the playoffs and come back hungrier for more.
“We have a lot of good guys coming back too,” Kelly said. “Last year, we finished fourth and didn’t make the playoffs. This year, we got to the quarterfinals, so we are moving in the right direction.”