Shut-down defense: Cougars force turnovers and makes easy work of cold-shooting Hettinger-Scranton
It's no secret that the Heart River boys basketball team is centered around defense.
The Cougars fly to the ball, play pressure zones and consistently trap teams into turnovers.
They put on a defensive showcase Tuesday night at the South Heart High School gymnasium, limiting Hettinger-Scranton to a 21-percent shooting effort from the field and forcing 25 turnovers en route to an unexpectedly easy 57-20 District 13 victory.
"It was one of our better defensive games we played this year," Heart River head coach Greg Pruitt said. "We got after it."
Did they ever.
Hettinger-Scranton's lone answer was 6-foot-4 senior center Stephen Kristy, who had 13 points and eight rebounds and shot 6 of 8 from the field. He came into the game averaging 18.2 points on his own.
Take away Kristy and the Night Hawks were just 3 of 34 (9 percent).
It was Hettinger-Scranton's lowest-scoring game of the season by 18 points. Head coach Adam Hill said the Night Hawks were held to their four-lowest quarter scores (five, four, four and seven) of the season as well.
"We can give them a better game than that. I'm almost embarrassed," Hill said. "It was the one time our effort wasn't there, which is really sad. Every time we give an effort. Tonight it just wasn't there."
It didn't take long for Heart River (8-4, 2-1 District 13) to show Hettinger-Scranton just how good its defense can be.
After a slow-moving first quarter in which Heart River hindered itself with fouls and put the Night Hawks (6-9, 2-1 District 13) in the bonus less than 5 minutes into the game, the Cougars caught fire thanks to the unheralded senior duo of Jordan Wagner and Brady Olson.
Wagner scored 10 of his team-high 14 points in the first half and Olson broke the game open with back-to-back 3-pointers from the left wing in the first minute and a half of the second quarter.
By halftime, the Cougars had built a 25-9 lead led 47-13 to end the third quarter.
Wagner, a 6-1 senior, had been held scoreless in the past two games, including a 68-58 loss to District 13 opponent Mott-Regent a week earlier. He had just four total points in his past four games and was averaging just 3.7 points per game.
"It means a lot," Wagner said. "The last couple games, I've been struggling a lot. I knew I had to do something to help my team tonight. I talked to coach about it the whole week. This is a big district game for us. I told him I wanted to come out and prove I wanted to be on the floor and I came out and just played my hardest."
The Cougars' bench players outscored the entire Hettinger-Scranton team, compling 23 points.
Hettinger-Scranton, winners of three of its last four entering the game with its only loss coming to No. 3-ranked Dickinson Trinity, felt it was in a good place.
Heart River was finally healthy -- injury and illness had struck the Cougars hard -- and playing with a full roster for the first time in two weeks.
"We had a lot of kids that stepped up," Pruitt said. "It's good to have everyone back and we're excited."
HS 5 9 13 20
HR 13 25 47 57
HS: Stephen Kristy 13, Brandon Pierce 3, Hayden Sadowsky 2, Christian Kilwein 2.
HR: Jordan Wagner 14, Tyson Kudrna 12, Riley Obrigewitch 8, Seth Ewoniuk 6, Cole Hecker 6, Brady Olson 6, Isaiah Marschner 2, Kyle Schoch 2.
3-pointers: HS 0, HR 5 (Kudrna 2, Olson 2, Hecker 1). Free throws: HS 2-10, HR 6-12. Total fouls: HS 9, HR 17. Rebounds: HS 39 (Kristy 8), HR 42 (Kudrna 7). Assists: HS 3 (three with 1), HR 16 (three with 3). Steals: HS 7 (Tanner Stippich 3), HR 16 (Hecker 5). Blocks: HS 1 (Kristy), HR 3 (Marschner 2). Turnovers: HS 25, HR 13.