By TED RADICK
Heritage Christian stumbled out of the gate Tuesday and faced a 12-point deficit at haltime.
The Minutemen were down, but not out. A decisive third-quarter rally paved the way as Heritage rallied for a 65-49 victory over Lima Christian Academy.
Foul trouble was key for both teams. Heritage Christian center Lewis Larsen, a large target at 6-foot-5, scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half after sitting for a large chunk of the second quarter with two fouls.
Meanwhile, Lima Christian point guard Jesse Cave picked up his fourth foul late in the second quarter. He didn’t return until early in the fourth, and Heritage Christian took full advantage.
“He’s a very good athlete in all kinds of sports, and when he got that fourth quarter we knew we had to make a run in the third quarter,” Heritage Christian coach Tim England said. “And, we did.”
Heritage Christian (6-5) fell behind 34-20 after giving up an early basket to start the third quarter. The Minutemen responded by ramping up the defensive pressure, and it immediately paid dividends.
Dillon Berry and Andrew VanDenBerghe started the rally with transition layups. Berry scored off a steal and Winfield Oestreich grabbed an offensive rebound to complete a 12-2 run.
“We were turning it over, but once we got their best player out with four fouls we regrouped,” said VanDenBerghe, a freshman point guard who recorded a triple-double and led Heritage Christian with 23 points. “They didn’t have a ton of ballhandlers, so when he went out it was tougher for them and their shots weren’t falling.”
Lima Christian’s Dylan Pettigrew scored a game-high 29 points and ended the Heritage Christian spurt with a nifty drive and layup. The Minutemen were soon back at it, though.
Larsen worked inside for a basket, then got again free in the paint to draw a foul. VanDenBerghe, who had 10 assists and 10 rebounds, sandwiched a pair of layups around a Larsen short jumper, and drilled a 3-pointer to put Heritage Christian up 44-38.
Heritage Christian outscored Lima Christian (5-1) 26-8 in the third quarter to take a 46-40 lead.
“You know, they have what they call a coaches’ retirement village and I’m going to be there because I left (Cave) in when I shouldn’t have,” Lima Christian coach Dave Stratton said.
“He really is the reason why our team goes.
“Coach England always has his team prepared, they never give up and, defensively, they always come with an energy that will cause turnovers.”
The Minutemen won the turnover battle in the third quarter by a 7-1 margin.
“Turning the ball over has been a real problem this season,” VanDenBerghe said.
“I thought we played as a team tonight, and not just as individuals.
“We kept the first-half score in reasonable distance. We talked about how the turnovers had a large part in us being behind, and we knew we had to keep up the intensity on defense.”
Forcing those turnovers led to transition baskets that turned the tide, according to VanDenBerghe.
“We started to get some steals and that gave us some confidence,” he said. “That boosted our team. When we went on a run and got ahead, we never looked back.”
“Once we got the lead, we didn’t want to give them any easy shots in the fourth quarter so we pulled off the press and just packed it back in,” England said. “We played a good, hard man-to-man and helped each other really well.”
Pettigrew, who had 14 points in the first quarter as Lima Christian took an early 21-13 lead, scored only nine points after halftime.
Heritage’s defense led to a balanced offensive attack. Berry scored 15 points and Oestreich 10; Larsen nearly had a double-double with nine rebounds and Matt Beal had 10 rebounds.
England said he wants to bottle what the Minutemen offered in the second half and take it on the road with the team. Consistent play from game to game has eluded Heritage Christian this season, he said.
“We are a much better shooting team in this gym,” he said.
“We shoot about 50 percent here or better. In other gyms, we’re shooting about 25 percent. Until we can figure out how to shoot better in road games, we’re going to have some difficulty.”
Lima christian (5-1)
J. Grimm 3-2–7, Cave 3-1–8, Whited 0-0–0, N. Grimm 1-0–2, Pettigrew 12-5–29, Garcia 0-0–0, Fickel 0-0–0. TOTALS: 19-58 8-11–49.
Heritage Christian (6-5)
W. Oestreich 5-0–10, VanDenBerghe 9-2–23, M. Beal 0-0–0, Berry 7-1–15, Larsen 8-1–17, Schultz 0-0–0, J. Oestreich 0-0–0, Stechschulte 0-0–0, J. Beal 0-0–0. TOTALS: 29-72 5-9–65.
Lima Christian 21 19 8 9 — 49
Heritage Christian 17 3 26 19 — 65
3-Point GOALS: Lima Christian 3-16 (Cave 2, J. Grimm); Heritage Christian 2-19 (VanDenBerghe 2).
rebounds: Lima Christian 36 (Pettigrew 12); Heritage Christian 50 (VanDenBerghe & M. Beal 10, Larsen 9).
turnovers: Lima Christian 19, Heritage Christian 14.
Send an E-mail to Ted Radick