Hershey used a strong fourth quarter to pull out a hard-fought 49-38 victory over Sutherland at home.
Outsized, Sutherland (4-5) double teamed Hershey’s 6’6” center Jacob Gosnell, daring the Panthers (6-4) to shoot the long ball. The Panthers obliged but their long-range shots failed to hit the mark, limiting them to just seven points while Sutherland scored nine to end the quarter with a two-point lead.
But Hershey opened the second with a 9-0 run to go up 16-9.
The Sailors stopped the 9-0 run at the 4:20 mark with a bucket by Ryan Richardson for their first two points of the period and a minute later, Cruz Kreber hit a bucket to cut the lead to 16-13.
Hershey went through a cold spell before Nolan Benjamin scored with a minute left on the clock and Andrew Weitzel added a free throw to build the lead to 19-13 at the half.
Although Sutherland would never regain the lead, they continued to hustle and fight in the second half.
It was back and forth throughout the third. The Panthers built the lead to 28-19 but Sutherland didn’t fold and fought back to trail by six again entering the last quarter.
It was nip and tuck unless the Panthers could improve their outside shooting.
Sophomore Cayden Spearman, easily the best shooter for Hershey, missed three or four good looks in the first three periods as had Austin Hoelscher and Nolan Benjamin. Weitzel’s trey in the third was the only one that went through the net.
But that changed in the opening moments of the fourth as Weitzel drilled a trey to give Hershey a nine-point lead. Sutherland failed to score and the next trip down, the Panthers found Spearman open who finally hit three-point pay dirt.
Another miss by the Sailors gave the Panthers the ball and Spearman hit nothing but net for his second trey in a row and Benjamin added another to give the Panthers a 15-point lead.
But once again, Sutherland roared back and cut the lead back to single digits, but as time slipped away, they were forced to foul to try and extend the game.
The Panthers were up to the task and they hit free throws to preserve the victory.
Despite the double team, Gosnell still led all scorers with 13 points. Weitzel added nine more for the Panthers.
Cameron Meyer led the Sailors with nine points and Jade Paxton and Peyton Copeland put in eight each.
Hershey coach Dustin Jorgenson knew it would be a tough game.
“It is never easy when you play a team that is just six miles away from you – they always go down to the nitty-gritty,” he said. “Coach (Dan) Dyer does a wonderful job. It was a great basketball game.”
Inability to capitalize on outside shots kept the game close.
“When they started out doubling inside, you have to be able to hit your outside shots and early on we didn’t do that, but finally got them to go down in the third and fourth quarter,” Jorgenson said.
On Friday, Hershey will host Valentine (2-9) then take to the road Saturday to take on Holdrege (2-8).
“Valentine is scrappy and strong, we will have to be ready to play and Holdrege’s team is fast and athletic,” Jorgenson said. “We just have to keep improving and be ready to play.”
Hershey: 7 -12 -13 -17 –49
Sutherland: 9 -4 -13 -12 –38