Hempfield enjoys some home cookin'
It had been almost a month since Hempfield had played a home game before the Spartans hosted Kiski Area on Tuesday night.
Guard Nate Perry certainly couldn't wait to get things cranked up at Spartan Field House, as he made his first six shots from the field on his way to a game-high 34 points to lead Hempfield (5-6, 3-1) to an 88-78 victory over Kiski Area (8-4, 3-2) to take over second place in Section 1-AAAA. In his last two home games, in victories over Norwin and Kiski Area, Perry has scored 74 points.
"We just like to shoot the ball here, and it's our gym," Perry said. "I feel it's just that, if I can come out here and start strong and lift my teammates up, we have some deadly shooters on this team, and I feel that if I lift them up, it's going to help us win."
Perry led four Hempfield players in double figures, as the team set a season high for points. Jake Swan scored 14 points, Anthony Procida hit for 12 and R.J. Pilato added 12 for the Spartans, while Brady Pacific scored 26 to lead Kiski Area.
"It's all about sharing the ball, but I didn't care if Nate passed it at all in the first half," Hempfield coach Bill Swan said. "You shoot the ball that well, it gives everybody that much more confidence, it spreads the floor for Nate and just gave us a lot of confidence early."
Perry set the stage for his night on Hempfield's first possession when he squared up at the top of the key and drained a 3-pointer 36 seconds into the game. He didn't stop there as he scored the game's first nine points - all on 3-pointers - as the Spartans opened with an 11-0 run capped by a pair of R.J. Thomas free throws with 5:28 remaining in the first quarter.
Hempfield continued to extend its lead throughout the period, thanks in large part to a staunch defense that held Kiski Area without a field goal for the first 5:13 of the game. The Cavaliers' only points came on a 6-for-6 showing at the free-throw line from Tarique Godson (four) and Pacific, who scored their first two points of the game.
Eric Weyant came off the bench late in the period and hit a layup with 2:47 remaining to end Kiski Area's 0-for-7 skid from the field. But Hempfield responded with a 7-0 run, capped by Jake Swan's 3-pointer with 1:05 remaining, that gave the Spartans a 29-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.
"They came out on fire," Kiski Area coach Shawn Bennis said. "I used some timeouts to try to cool them off a little bit, we changed defense a little bit, but they were still knocking them down. And we missed several key layups that could have kept us in it."
Undaunted Kiski Area fought back in the second quarter, using a three-quarter-court pressure defense that stymied Hempfield's attack and forced six turnovers. The Cavaliers, who trailed by as many as 24, clawed back into the game and pushed the deficit under 20 on two occasions before Matt Sefchok drained a 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining in the half to put the Spartans on top, 49-29, at the intermission.
"All we talked about at halftime is what we were going to do on defense, like how we were going to guard Tarique Godson and Brady Pacific ... and that's all we talked about," Bill Swan said. "You're going to give up some shots whenever you're up that much, but I was pleased with our defense."