Mt. Hebron picked the perfect time to put together its best defensive performance of the season.
In the quarterfinals of the 3A East region playoffs on Monday evening, the Vikings held host Reservoir to its lowest offensive total this winter to go along with big offensive efforts from Brandon Prox (18 points) and Ryan Kinloch (10 points) en route to a convincing 54-31 victory. The win, which avenges two regular season defeats against the Gators, advances Mt. Hebron into a region semifinal match-up against Centennial on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
“It’s big because they knocked me out [of the playoffs] freshman year and we’ve lost to them twice this year. So it’s huge for our team, big for our spirits and makes us feel great,” said Prox, who hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 of his points in the decisive fourth quarter.
Mt. Hebron (13-10) coach Mike Linsenmeyer said the effort was undoubtedly among the highlights of the season thus far, but also said he’s seen a confidence shift over the past two months. After starting the season 4-8, the Vikings rallied to close the regular season with wins in eight of their final 10 games.
“To come back and beat Reservoir finally on the third try, I was just so proud of the guys. They’ve worked so hard and we’ve gotten so much better, really since Christmas,” Linsenmeyer said. “These kids have really bought into the system and tonight was just a great example of that.”
The loss for Reservoir (14-9) was just the team’s second in its last eight games. Things just never got going for the Gators, who took more than three minutes to score their first points — a layup by Brian Ricketts (7 points).
Mt. Hebron, which also got strong all-around games from Justin Cargiulo (8 points) and Alex Nazaire (8), built a 13-7 lead by the end of the first quarter and increased that advantage to 21-14 by halftime.
Reservoir responded with a push to begin the third quarter, closing to as close as two points following another Ricketts basket with 3:30 remaining in the period. But Mt. Hebron reestablished control over the next few minutes, going ahead 32-25 entering the final quarter.
Then once that fourth quarter began, the Vikings issued the knockout blow. Cargiulo made a lay-up and Prox buried a 3-pointer in the opening minute of the period, setting in motion what ended up being a 17-2 run that created an insurmountable deficit for the Gators.
“It’s like a competition almost when you see one of our teammates make the first [shot]. We have to then go hit it to show them we are a better shooter,” Prox said. “It’s like a competition, it keeps us fired up and keeps us in the game.”
As a team, Mt. Hebron finished the game with nine made 3-point shots.
Looking ahead to the match-up against rival Centennial, which split the regular season meetings against the Vikings, Linsenmeyer said the formula shouldn’t change.
“ We play pretty simple, we play hard and we play defense. It’s not really rocket science, but the kids have bought in and that’s exactly what we have to continue doing no matter who we are up against,” Linsenmeyer said. “I think at this point the kids should feel confident that if we execute the game plan we have a chance to beat anybody.
Mt. Hebron 54, Reservoir 31
MH (13-10): Prox 18, Kinloch 10, Cargiulo 8, Nazaire 8, Coleman 7, Ichrist 3.
Re (14-9): Ricketts 7, Saunderson 6, McCallum 6, Moore 4, Diarra 4, Mattocks 2, McCoy 2.
Half: 21-14 MH.