Momentum swings can be both good and bad for a team, as Hutsonville-Palestine's boys' basketball team can attest to.
The Tigers saw the positives and negatives of momentum in a matter of minutes Monday night in their 67-47 loss to Neoga in the first round of the IHSA Class 1A Regional at Dieterich.
Hutsonville-Palestine bolted out to an early 8-0 lead in the first 1:35 of the game, making all four of their field goal attempts while Neoga struggled to find the mark. However, Neoga would find the mark moments later, as they ripped off 16 straight points in a three-minute stretch to take control of the game.
"You couldn't have asked for a better start," HHS-PHS head coach Travis Titsworth said. "We came out and scored the first eight points of the game, but then we let them score 16 in a row to put us in a hole."
Landon Williams opened the scoring for Hutsonville-Palestine on the first possession of the game, then Dylan Webster followed with three straight hoops for the Tigers to push the lead to eight with 6:25 remaining in the first period.
Neoga would get hot at that point, while the Tigers went ice cold. Neoga hit three straight three-pointers - two by Jake Baker and one by Wyatt Krikie - to put teh Indians up 9-8 with 4:35 to play, then Michael Baker scored back-to-back baskets and Jake Baker buried another three-pointer for a 16-8 Neoga lead with 2:50 left. Matt Schmidlin put an end to the run with two free throws at the 2:39 mark, but Neoga scored the last seven points of the period to push the lead to 23-10.
During that stretch, Hutsonville-Palestine missed their final 11 field goal attempts of the period, then missed their first two of the second period before Graham Alspach scored to make the score 23-12. Seven straight points stretched the Neoga lead to 30-12 before Tyler Heflin knocked down a three-pointer to close the gap to 30-15 with 3:45 to go. Neoga countered by scoring nine of the final 12 points of the half to extend their advantage to 39-18 at halftime.
After making their first four shots of the game, Hutsonville-Palestine went 3-27 from the field the rest of the half.
"We got a lot of the same shots we've had all season, we just missed them," Titsworth said. "We missed a lot of wide open layups, which are shots we should hit. It is hard to stay in a ball game when you shoot that bad."
Hutsonville-Palestine tried to make a game of it in the third quarter, as they opened on a 9-2 run to pull within 41-27 with 4:13 to play, but that is as close as they would get the rest of the way. In fact, the Tigers did not score again in the period after that initial run, as Neoga scored the last 12 points of the period to open up a 53-27 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Tigers once again tried to claw back at the start of the fourth quarter, as Alspach, Webster and Treyver Ferguson each scored three-points in a 9-0 run to close the gap to 53-36 with 6:13 left. However, Neoga countered with a 10-1 run to take their biggest lead of the game, 63-37, with 3:35 left and the Tigers did not get any closer than 20 the rest of the way.
"We tried to come back and climbed to within 14, but everything we worked for, we gave right back to them when they scored seven in a row," Titsworth said. "But, the kids didn't quit. They kept fighting and battled to the end."
The big difference in the game came from an area where Hutsonville-Palestine usually excels - the three-point line. The Tigers made just 4-20 shots from beyond the arc (20 percent), while Neoga knocked down 9-19 attempts from long range (47 percent). Neoga also held an advantage in the paint, as they outrebounded Hutsonville-Palestine 47-38 and blocked 11 shots.
Webster led Hutsonville-Palestine with 14 points, four rebounds, one steal and one assist, while Heflin netted 10 points and five rebounds. Williams posted six points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal, Alspach totaled five points, eight rebounds, three steals and one blocked shot, Schmidlin contributed five points, five assists, four rebounds and one steal, Joe Eckert collected four points, 12 rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot and Ferguson added three points and one steal.
It was the last game for four seniors - Webster, Eckert, Schmidlin and Heflin - who have left their mark on the program.
"The seniors have a ton of heart and they won't quit," Titsworth said, "This was the first group I have had from freshman through seniors and it was a pleasure to coach those four. They did a lot of things correctly."
Neoga was led by Jake Baker with 28 points - 21 of which came in the first half - along with five rebounds, two assists and one steal. Krikie posted 18 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and one steal and Michael Baker totaled 10 points, 22 rebounds, nine blocked shots and two assists.
Hutsonville-Palestine ended their season with a 13-15 record. Neoga advances to take on top-seeded Oblong in the semifinals Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
"For the turnover we had from last year to this year, 13 wins was a lot more than what most people thought we were going to get," Titsworth said. "That shows these kids will work, listen and do the little things. We have a lot of young kids that are very talented. They still have some growth physically they need to do, but they will put in the work."