The Patriots took this chapter of the rivalry, managing a 73-61 victory. Heritage junior forward Wayne Engelstad was the top scorer on the night, netting 25. Nine of those came in the first quarter, where he converted one three-point play and made two three point shots. In total, he sunk six threes on the night. His strong first quarter gave the Patriots a 15-11 lead, and while the Falcons made several runs, they never led after the first quarter.
“My team got me open; I just had to hit open shots. Everybody played well,” said Engelstad. “We had a lot of energy. We knew that we had to come out and beat these guys. They’re in our league, they’re our rivals, and we had to beat them.”
Freedom senior swingman Andrew Garner, despite a sluggish start, scored a team-high 17 points. After Garner, senior guard Jeff Matteri, junior guard Jehiah Gennaro, and senior center Darrell Greene all notched eight for the Falcons. In addition to Englestad, the Patriots had two scorers in double-digits: senior forward Kyle Grant, who scored 12, and junior guard Paul Blackburn with 11.
Despite Freedom’s success in recent years, its varsity team has never defeated Heritage. Included in that was a 4-0 sweep at the hands of the Patriots last year that culminated in a 75-65 loss in the first round of the North Coast Section playoffs.
“It’s a new group of guys,” said Patriots head coach Pat Cruickshank. “It does feel good, though. I’m more pleased with the effort my kids gave today. That’s the biggest thing I’ve got going now.”
While the game did feature a different group of players, it was similar to all of 2010’s games – high scoring, fast, and physical.
A big difference in the game came from the free-throw line. The Patriots were 22 of 31 from the line while Freedom was only 11 of 28. This was not lost on Falcons coach Drew Torres, who felt that his team played well after a sluggish start.
“I’ve got to give them credit because they shot really well. Free throws for us were obviously not as good. They shot a lot better than us,” said Torres, who also noted that the physical nature of the game will likely repeat itself in the rematch. “Every league game in our league game is physical. It was a physical game, that’s how we like it. Give credit to Heritage: they were the better team tonight. They beat us.”
The night was not a total loss for the Falcons, as their junior varsity team beat Heritage 57-46. Dominic Vigil led all Freedom scorers with 14 while Ryan Smith and Ethan Magalei each contributed 10 for the Patriots.