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Hampshire's Brendan Waterworth bring the ball up the court as Burlington Central's Malik Harris defends Wednesday in Sycamore. | Sean King~For Sun-Times Media
Tyler Crater, Shane Hernandez and the Hampshire basketball team did a commendable job channeling their emotions Wednesday night considering their situation.
With the whole team aware for the first time that head coach Bob Barnett was out following a pair of heart attacks Tuesday, the Whip-Purs came out strong and fast against arch-rival Burlington Central and then held on at the foul line for a 59-54 victory at Sycamore’s Leland Strombom Thanksgiving Tournament.
“Definitely this was more emotional than yesterday because only a few guys knew then why coach was sick, but today everyone knew,” said Crater, who scored a game-high 18 points. “And it adds to the fire that we were playing against our longtime rivals. Any time we play Burlington Central it’s always a real emotional game.
“We wanted to get it done today for the coach.”
Barnett is feeling better and out of the hospital after surgery, and for now staying away from the court. The estimates are Barnett could be away a week or more, but assistant Mike Featherly thought it probably would be closer to a week knowing the Whip-Purs’ longtime head coach.
Many of the Whip-Purs weren’t sure in their opening game Tuesday about the exact nature of Barnett’s illness because school district human resources thought it better not to go into that at the time, with the coach in the hospital. After they found out, the Whip-Purs had to walk a fine line against their rivals.
“We wanted them to be emotional, but energetic and under control,” Featherly said.
That’s what they got as Crater drilled two three-pointers in the first quarter and scored eight of his points as Hampshire (1-1) seized a quick 15-6 lead. But Central hung tough, refused to get blown out, and then made a run to within two in the third quarter and then 43-40 with 5:22 left in the game.
Then Hernandez made a layup, Matt Bridges a couple of free throws, and Hernandez followed with two more free throws in a 6-0 run that made it 49-40 with four minutes to play.
Central, by hitting 8-of-13 from the field in the fourth quarter, made one more run to within 49-46. But the Rockets (0-2) were at a big foul disadvantage — 10-4 midway through the fourth quarter — and were giving up two free throws every time they fouled to get the ball back.
Sophomore Matt Bridges sank 4-of-4 free throws, Ryan Cork 5-of-6 and Crater 3-of-3 in the fourth quarter to stave off Central’s comeback, which was led by seven second-half points by Malik Harris and eight by James Raney.
“The fourth quarter, Matt really knocked it down,” Hernandez said. “For a sophomore, he really stepped up. He’s going to be a help this year.”
Hampshire got nine points and nine rebounds from Hernandez and eight points from Brendan Waterworth.
“We’re just not playing very smart,” Central coach Brett Porto said. “We lose a defensive assignment after it got close and then it would balloon up to five or seven points again.
“We’re making too many fouls 50 feet from the basket, too. We’re trying to make a play, but sometimes we try to make a play at the wrong time rather than just be sound defensively.”
Central had 12 points from Malik Harris, 11 from Moter Deng, and 10 from Duncan Ozburn.
Matthew Bridges 1 4-4 7, Brendan Waterworth 2 3-5 8, Jacob Tuttle 0 1-2 1, Ryan Cork 1 5-6 7, Tim Jansen 1 3-4 5, Michael Dumoulin 2 0-2 4, Shane Hernandez 4 1-3 9, Tyler Crater 6 3-3 18. Totals 17 20-29 59.
Malik Harris 5 1-2 12, Charles Horton 0 0-2 0, Jacob Shutta 1 0-0 3, Bryce Warner 3 0-0 7, Reed Hunnicutt 0 1-2 1, Moter Deng 3 5-6 11, James Raney 3 0-0 8, Zach Berry 5 0-2 10. Totals 54.
Hampshire 15 11 15 18 -- 59
3-point field goals: Hampshire (5) -- Crater 3, Bridges 1, Waterworth 1.