H/LHF ‘All Business’ in first trip to state

March 10, 2019

LINCOLN - Humphrey/Lindsay Holy family boys basketball coach Joe Hesse had a sense about his group when it first came together in summer workouts.

A roster that features three brothers 6-foot-3 or taller mostly made that obvious. It didn’t take Nostradamus to foretell the potential of the upcoming season.

What remained unknown was just how the group would develop, come together and respond when the stakes were highest.

H/LHF had a resounding answer for that question on Thursday and continued what Hesse considers a mature, workman-like approach to the first state tournament since the programs combined prior to the 2013-14 season.

“It’s weird for us never having been down here, because our kids don’t act that way,” Hesse said after Thursday’s 67-57 win over Hartington-Newcastle. “The attitudes of the kids at the hotel, we’re not here to screw around.

“We’ve got a ton of older guys, we’ve got some young guys mixed in that play. They were talking about basketball. They were talking about this game.”

That game included a 10-point lead at the end of the first quarter that ballooned over 20 before halftime. Though the final separation was only 10, H/LHF was never seriously threatened after the midway point of the second quarter.

Whether the business-like approach explains Friday as well is hard to say, but the Bulldogs were certainly locked in from the beginning.

Facing the top-rated team in the last Lincoln Journal Star Prep Ratings of the season, H/LHF scored the first seven points, forced nine first-quarter turnovers and led 22-5 at the end of one.

All part of just another day of work.

“I’ve been dreaming of this since second grade,” said point guard Bret Hanis after sinking five 3-pointers and leading H/LHF with 15 points on Friday. “I’m just speechless.”

But how do the guys in the middle of it explain it?

“Most of it is, we’ve all been playing together since we were this little,” Hanis said lowering his palm to his waistline. “We’ve got the chemistry that no other team really has.”

Even with all the distractions of a historic trip? That was never the goal, Jason Sjuts said. The Bulldogs had some idea at midseason they were onto something big.

Now is the time to capitalize. They’ll enjoy everything surrounding their trip to Lincoln if and when they complete the mission.

“We kind of went on a little stretch and won three really important games back-to-back-to-back. Hesse came in the locker room and told us, ‘We can get down to Lincoln and we can win some games. When we get down there, it’s going to be all business,’” Sjust remembered.

“I think right there, the spark was lit. Now we just want to keep going.”

Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sports@columbustelegram.com