Jacob Heller fired in 33 points and blocked a last-second shot by Fairfield to lift Prairie Heights past the visiting Falcons, 68-66 last Friday night in NECC boys basketball play.
Standing on the free throw line with four seconds to play with a chance to give the Panthers a four-point lead, Heller missed both tries, closing out an uncharacteristically cold, 12-20 effort from the foul stripe for the 6-3 junior. Fairfield’s Joe Line grabbed the rebound and dribbled to half-court before launching a desperation three-pointer. The shot didn’t make it very far, however, as Heller swatted the ball into the upper deck of the bleachers as the final buzzer sounded, setting off a joyous Panther celebration.
“What a great high school basketball game,” exclaimed Heights coach Brett Eltzroth. “I am so proud of the way our kids bounced back from a very disappointing opener last week at Garrett (a 62-51 Panther loss). They had a great week of practice and competed very well tonight against a tough team in Fairfield.”
Heller canned the last of his 10 field goals with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter to give the hosts a 61-58 lead. Fairfield came back to score the next five points on a deuce by Thomas Martin and a three-point play by Line to put the visitors in front.
Kyler West then stepped up to nail a clutch, three-point shot from the left wing to reclaim the edge for the Panthers. After a couple empty Falcon possessions, Heller swished two charity tosses with 28 seconds remaining to up the difference to three.
Fairfield had one last opportunity to tie the game and it did just that when Line was fouled while attempting a three-pointer. Line made all three free throws, tying the count at 66-all and ending his scoring night with 33 markers.
Prairie Heights quickly worked the ball into its half of the court in hopes of setting up for a game-winning shot. Cody Bachelor freed himself underneath and was fouled while going up for a lay-in with six seconds on the clock. The sophomore calmly sank both charity tosses to put Heights ahead.
The Falcons then turned the ball over on the in-bounds play. Heller was immediately fouled, setting up the final frantic seconds.
West followed Heller on the Panther scorecard with 14 points. Bachelor finished with 11.
Josh Stephens backed up Line in the Fairfield ledger with 11 markers.
“We made a few mental mistakes tonight, but that is to be expected to happen early in the season,” said Eltzroth. “Our goal is to be playing our best at the end of the year and games like this, if we learn from them, can help us in that process.”
Prairie Heights 68
Scoring by quarters
FF 15 19 14 18 -66
PH 16 17 20 17 -68
Josh Stephens 3, 2-3, 11; Joe Line 8, 15-16, 33; Brock Goeglein 3, 0-0, 8; Sam Brown 1, 2-2, 4; John Stack 1, 1-2, 4; Kegan Showalter 2, 0-0, 4; Thomas Martin 1, 0-0, 2; Mitch Dewitt 0, 0-0, 0; Clay Bontrager 0, 0-0, 0; Nathan Azzarito 0, 0-0, 0; Totals 19, 20-24, 66
Three-point field goals 8 (Stephens 3, Line 2, Goeglein 2, Stack 1)
Cody Bachelor 3, 4-6, 11; Kyler West 6, 1-1, 14; Jacob Heller 10, 12-20, 33; Zach Shepard 2, 2-2, 6; Levi Tuckerman 0, 2-2, 2; Dylan Stayner 1, 0-0, 2; Cassten Everidge 0, 0-0, 0; Austin Penick 0, 0-0, 0; Corey Johnson 0, 0-0, 0; Bobby Blum 0, 0-0, 0; Totals 22, 21-31, 68
Three-point field goals 3 (Bachelor 1, West 1, Heller 1)