By Steve Robinson | August 9, 2020 - 10:16 pm
Posted in Category: Heyworth Buzz

Clay and Sue Wiseman, when they established a scholarship to honor their youngest son, Noah, who they lost in 2014, were adamant this would only last five years. And there just happened to be a little extra money in the till thanks to the donations they rounded up in the last year that a $2,000 scholarship could be awarded in the final year along with a pair of $5,000 scholarships as well.

This year, those three honorees should have been celebrated just as their predecessors were at the annual Senior Night Banquet, but the pandemic we have been in the middle of since mid-March halted any plans for a public recognition ceremony. Roughly 17-20 Heyworth High School seniors applied and completed the essay question put before them. Instead, the trio of winners received their scholarship announcement at their homes.

Every year, the committee awarding the scholarship put a thought-provoking question for the students to answer, challenging them to go beyond knowledge and look inward. This year’s question was: “What role does social media play in your life?” Clay Wiseman, Noah’s father, said the question asked the students to explain its role in their lives. The question also asked students to theorize on its advantages and disadvantages for society.

What committee members found in the essays “was interesting as far as the amount of time they spent on their phones, and the amount of time they don’t spend communicating face-to-face,” Clay Wiseman said. He added the kids admitted spending 3-5 hours on their phones. “They admitted that’s a concern partly because they were not taking the initiative to contact the person they wanted to talk to face-to-face, or even to talk to them on the phone.” He also stated that one of the essay writers mentioned the lack of face-to-face contact included when they texted to friends sitting across from them in the school cafeteria.

This year’s “Win For Wiseman” scholarship committee had always admitted to the challenge of raising the funds every year for $10,000, but this year, Clay Wiseman said, folks with additional funds came through, giving the committee $12,000 to award. The winners of a pair of $5,000 scholarships were Shae Ruppert and Morgan Spencer, and Ryan Hickenbottom won a $2,000 “Wiseman” scholarship.

Shae Ruppert: Shae Ruppert, 18, daughter of Lance and Amy Ruppert, admits she doesn’t really use much social media, herself, and that includes, unlike most kids her age, not having a Facebook account. She said she has an account on the photo-sharing site Instagram, but isn’t on it much. “I just wrote about how I am not on my Facebook account much and I am not influenced by social media,” she said. She said she believes kids only post the positive parts of their lives when they post on Facebook. “You don’t really see the bad parts. They don’t post the bad parts, so you don’t see a person’s whole life.”

She said social media was meant to bring people or friends who live miles apart to be able to come together, but that has been infected by persons who do nothing but post negative items solely for the purpose of hurting others. She added it has made people tend to become collective in their thinking rather than maintaining their own opinions if they are in disagreement for fear of being criticized.

Shae is headed to the University of Illinois where she wants to major in Agriculture Accounting. Getting a job in the field of her major would be following in her parents’ job fields, as they both work in agriculture.

Morgan Spencer: Morgan Spencer, 18, daughter of Chad and Kerry Spencer, will start her college career at Tennessee’s Chattanooga State Community College, where she said she will be studying Art and Animation. She will also be a catcher on the school’s Tigers softball team. From CSCC, she said, she is interested in finishing her education for her Bachelor’s degree at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. She said delving into animation as a career first came to her when she was a freshman at HHS, thanks to art classes she took there.

“When I wrote my essay, I knew I wanted to make it stand out and be unique,” Spencer, said. “I used my passion for art a lot throughout it because I knew that was something unique about me and something I really care about. I also wanted to make it funny and make them laugh. I didn’t want it to be a super serious thing.”

Ryan Hickenbottom: Ryan Hickenbottom, 18, son of Greg and Sherri Hickenbottom, when not deep in study, began a lawn care business a couple years ago, which, he said has had an impact on him. He used the business page wing of Facebook to set up word about his business. He said in his essay he mentioned how setting up that business page has impacted him. “By having the social media, it allowed me to get further connections, my name got passed from one client to others through different social media which brought in more clients allowing me to increase revenue throughout my business.” He said that experience taught him different skills needed to operate the business.

Hickenbottom said he wants to be a business major and will be attending Illinois State University this fall. “Business has always been my passion and I have always had the mindset for it,” he said. He said his ultimate end goal in this life is either running his own company and coming out with his own product, or working within a corporation.

He said his essay had to do with how social media helped make it easier to see the postings of family and friends, and he parlayed his comments toward how it has helped him with his business. He added winning the scholarship was “an extra benefit that I was grateful to receive and will help me further my education.”

From conversations I have had over the past five years with Clay and Sue Wiseman, both about the annual “Win For Wiseman” Scholarship they established and named in honor of their youngest of two sons after his death in 2014, I got the impression any young person who made friends with Noah would be made to feel welcomed in their home. From what I have learned about their son, he had an instinct for who he could let into his inner circle almost before any of his friends had a chance to make such an analysis themselves. That is rare in almost any teenager.

When the Wisemans established the “Win For Wiseman” Scholarship, the couple were not sure what dollar figure they would be putting on the honor, which in its first year, 2015, went to two Heyworth High football players because Noah was a Hornets player himself at the positions of running back and linebacker. His parents sat out judging essays written by football players for that first year. But the couple, joined by Noah’s older brother, Kyle, and his wife, Jill, and by Jeff and Julie Day, have headed the committee that judges the 750-1,000 word essays HHS seniors have written ever since.

Prior “Wiseman” Winners: These three young people now make 11 winners of this award named in honor of the Wiseman’s youngest of two sons. The prior winners were: Kara Monteggia and Kara Martens (2019); Riley Ryburn and Amber Tomlin (2018); Saegan Snow and Jackson Bradshaw (2017); and Jacob Day and Cole Sinn (2016).

By Steve Robinson | May 11, 2018 - 10:13 pm
Posted in Category: Heyworth Buzz

Clay and Sue Wiseman and the “Win For Wiseman” Scholarship Committee just wrapped up awarding two $5,000 prizes to two Heyworth High School seniors for the third straight year. With that money, the college careers of Amber Tomlin and Riley Ryburn have received a boost even before they have begun. The college careers of the four previous recipients who were awarded these prizes in 2016 and 2017 also must have felt boosted by the effort those students put into their essays. Right now, those kids are wrapping up their sophomore and freshman years at college, respectfully.

The award is named for the Wiseman’s youngest of two sons, Noah, who passed away in 2014.

And while being a small town helped the Wisemans in raising the money that first year to make giving away two $5,000 scholarships possible, the passage of time and life’s frantic pace has made continuing to raise dollars for two scholarships that much more challenging, Clay Wiseman, Noah’s father, admits.

Going into what will be the fourth year of the scholarship will, Clay, and his wife, Sue, anticipate seeing two more HHS students be awarded another pair of $5,000 scholarships for having written an essay in order to respond to a challenging question devised by the Scholarship’s committee. That committee consists of the Wisemans; Their older son, Kyle, and his wife, Jill; and Jeff and Julie Day. The Days oversee the money that comes in to the scholarship fund and pass it along to the school which set up an account the money goes into.

“A lot of family and friends, and the community have helped make the scholarship’s success possible,” Clay Wiseman said. He adds that their scholarship is the largest locally-awarded scholarship at HHS Senior Awards Night. That’s what HHS Counselor Rebecca Stanton has told the Wiseman family, Clay and Sue told me.

“As we acquire new acquaintances and make contact with different friends, we’re approaching them” with the story of the scholarship and the need to raise funds, Clay Wiseman said.

“Rebecca has been nothing but kind and helpful to us throughout the whole process,” Sue Wiseman said of Stanton, who has worked at HHS for two years. The scholarship has helped kids who really need the assist to pay for their education, she added, explaining that is something she has heard from talking to Stanton.

Sue Wiseman also wanted to make sure the public knew of the help her family has received from Julie Day. Day was the person who approached the Wisemans with the notion of getting the scholarship started. “If it weren’t for Julie, this scholarship wouldn’t have come to fruition,” Sue said.

“Julie has done so much for us, and Jeff and Julie have been the inspiration behind this,”

Sue said. “Our family is truly grateful for everything they have done.” Sue credits Julie’s organizational skills with how the operation of the scholarship’s financial process has worked so far.

I have only gotten to know Sue and Clay, and Julie through interviews during phone conversations. But I can tell you this entire group of folks, and those who are helping keep this scholarship alive do it to help two deserving students who have dreams for their future. That’s been the sole goal here. They just want to see two HHS students do what young people that age ought to – strive to learn about the world, and then about a course of study that will relate to what they want to do for a career in this world. They don’t want anything beyond that. In today’s world, that can’t be a bad thing.

By Steve Robinson | April 27, 2018 - 10:13 pm
Posted in Category: Heyworth Buzz

When “Senior Awards Night” at Heyworth High School ended Wednesday night, there had to be the usual relief by those just days from graduating that they could see the light at the end of the tunnel as they anxiously awaited their college or vocational careers.

And thanks to the “Win For Wiseman” Scholarship Fund, two HHS seniors received a little help to getting those careers started. The “Win For Wiseman” Scholarship Fund was established to honor Noah Wiseman who was an HHS freshman when he died in 2014 at age 16. Approached by family friend Julie Day, Noah’s parents, Clay and Sue Wiseman, along with Noah’s older brother, Kyle, and his wife, Jill, established the “Win For Wiseman” Scholarship Fund as a means of honoring Noah, who was an HHS freshman when he died.

Each year, the committee members, which include the four Wisemans, Day, and her husband, Jeff, create an essay question for the students to write about. Committee members deliberate themselves on the subject of the question before a question is finally selected by the committee to present to students, Clay and Sue Wiseman explained.

Sue Wiseman said a total of 18 students submitted essays. Committee members read the essays reducing that to the top three, the top two earning the scholarships.

This year’s question: “What life lesson will you take with you from Heyworth High School?” This year’s “Win For Wiseman” Scholarship winners are friends who knew each other in grade school and strengthen their bond of friendship in junior high and high school: Riley Ryburn and Amber Tomlin.

Riley Ryburn: Riley, daughter of Lori Becker, Heyworth, and Phillip Ryburn, Murfreesboro, Tenn., explained, “The main thing I learned was life is going to give you, like, obstacles and ups and downs and it’s up to you to get back up.” For Riley, that has meant being part of helping her mother with some health issues related to cancer. She said she has had to help with her mother’s care at times. She said her gist of the essay she wrote is that getting back up after such setbacks is what she learned while attending HHS.

Riley knew Noah Wiseman when they were in junior high school, living in the same subdivision. Riley said she wrote about how caring for her mother led her to the career path she’s seeking in nursing. To that end, she will use her scholarship money to attend Southeastern Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. Her career goal at this point is to become a Nurse Practitioner. She is graduating HHS with a 4.0 Grade Point Average.

“I’m really grateful for this,” Riley said of being a scholarship winner. “I don’t think Noah’s family knows how much it means to me.”

Amber Tomlin: For Amber Tomlin, the lesson she said she came away with from her HHS years was that “life is short and people should live it while they can and not wait until something goes wrong to appreciate what you have.” Her view is seen through remembering classmate A. J. Hanlin, who died in a traffic accident in 2014. For Amber, before Hanlin’s death, “Everything was running smoothly,” she said. “I hadn’t experienced any, like, big deaths or illnesses or anything in my family. So I was kind of naïve to think that ‘I’m young and lifer is perfect.’”

But when Hanlin was killed, explained Amber, daughter of Patrick and Lisa Tomlin, she said, “Reality hit me.” Amber is planning to attend St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa where she will major in Nursing.

With healing being the duty a nurse or nurse practitioner has a role in, it seems appropriate that these friends aiming for parallel paths should be honored with these scholarships.

How “Win For Wiseman” Scholarship Began: When they conceived of the scholarship, the Wiseman family’s goal was to raise enough money to give out one $5,000 scholarship. But the outpouring of support that first year allowed there to be two scholarships totaling $5,000 each to be awarded.

When the Wisemans agreed to establish the scholarship, Sue Wiseman explained, she and her husband had a few conditions before setting about honoring their son in this manner. The first was any money collected must never come to the Wiseman house. The second condition was that the contest be closed to senior members of HHS’ football team in its first year, 2015, because Noah was on the football team at the time of his passing. Since then, it has been awarded to any member of the school’s senior class.

Day, later joined by her husband, Jeff, stepped up to help make good to the Wiseman’s request regarding cash handling.

The Wisemans helped establish the committee that first year in 2015 but did not judge the essays which were turned into HHS’ counseling office and renumbered so as to keep the writer’s identity a secret until it was time to select a winner. Wiseman family members did not serve as judges that first year because of their familiarity with the boys on the team. An independent panel judged the essays. The Wisemans, their son and daughter-in law served as judges starting with essays submitted for 2016.

When they began raising funds for the scholarship, the Wisemans thought $5,000 from friends, neighbors, and strangers would be a nice start for the first year. To their delight, they raised $10,000 – enough for two scholarships. Heyworth’s school board approved the scholarship, and HHS’ guidance office collects the essays and assigns a number to each essay to protect the writer’s anonymity so the judges have no idea which students have written them.

By Steve Robinson | September 4, 2017 - 10:07 pm
Posted in Category: Heyworth Buzz

Steve RobinsonNoah Wiseman, from what I’ve learned about him over the past couple of years in talking with his folks, Clay and Sue Wiseman, was a high school student who enjoyed playing football on his high school team, hanging out with friends, and making every effort to live a principled life.

That’s what made losing him so difficult for his family and friends in June 2014 at age 16.That’s what made one of the parents of one of those friends, Julie Day, eager to receive the Wiseman family’s consent to establish a scholarship for Heyworth High School students in Noah’s honor, to keep his memory alive.

After receiving the approval of the local school board, fundraising for the scholarship began. Because Noah was a member of the Heyworth High School Hornets football team, a dual position player – running back and linebacker – the Wisemans decided to open the scholarship opportunity to just members of the football team. The Wisemans, their other son Kyle and his wife, Jill, would tap an independent group of judges to decide winners of two $5,000 scholarships which would be used to help defray college costs. Last year, it became necessary to ask an independent panel to judge the entries because of the family’s ties to the Hornets football team. This year, the Wisemans, their son and Jill will serve as the panel judging the entries.

When the “Win For Wiseman” scholarship award was introduced in 2015, it was opened only to HHS football players – the buddies Noah played and stood on the sidelines with. Because the Wiseman family still had a connection to the Hornets’ football team at that time, and knowing many of those players as a result, the Wisemans left the selection of the winners of the first scholarship to an independent team of judges to determine the winners of two $5,000 scholarships.

To the Wiseman’s surprise at raising so much money in their first try that two awards could be given on the first try was the joy that two of Noah’s friends he was close to – Jacob Day and Cole Sinn – received the scholarships in its first year.

Last year, in preparation for the second set of scholarships to be given in 2017, the Wisemans opened the eligibility for the scholarships up to all members of the high school’s senior class. For the 2017 edition of the scholarship, with no direct connection to the school, the Wisemans, Noah’s older brother, Kyle, and his wife, Jill, served as judges for this year. This year’s contest was opened to members of HHS’ Class of 2017.

The essay question the kids were asked to expound upon was, “If you had the authority to change your school in a positive way, what specific change would you make and why?” The winners of the 2017 scholarships were Saegan Snow, 18, daughter of Scott and Rebecca Snow; and Jackson Bradshaw, son of Brian Bradshaw and Michelle Dugan.

“We chose the question hoping the kids would talk about curriculum and how the high school can better prepare them for college,” Clay Wiseman said. He credited “intense research and how HHS prepared them for college, and what they wrote about what they would like to see in the future to prepare students.” All essays were independently coded by the school guidance office so that the Wisemans wouldn’t know whose essays were being read by the panel, Sue Wiseman added.

“I wrote about changing our math program because we are one of the schools that has the lowest scores when it comes to ACT and SAT math test scores,” explained Snow. “I really like math, so I thought that would be a very good subject to write on.”

Snow said her essay recommended the junior high school consider starting a Math Club at that level to get kids’ interest started so it would carry through to high school. She said her interest in math kicked in during her junior high days and continued through to now.

Bradshaw’s essay had within it a suggestion to introduce a kind of senior thesis project based on the course of study students were interested in pursuing once in college. He said this project could take the place of one of a student’s courses. Participation in such a program, Bradshaw believes, would give a student a leg up on whatever vocation they wanted to pursue after college graduation.

“This senior thesis program would give seniors an option to pick what they want, and also teach them to be independent and work on a project of their own,” Bradshaw explained.

Such a program would have additional benefits, Bradshaw added, such as learning how to handle deadlines, and time management.

Snow is starting her college career at Heartland Community College to get an associate’s degree in Art before transferring to Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. She’s still considering what she’ll major in there. She said she would love to operate her own interior design business.

Bradshaw is attending Southeast Missouri University in Cape Girardeau, Mo., where he will major in Theatre.

Sue Wiseman gave “Kudos” to Jeff and Julie Day for their efforts in overseeing the scholarship’s finances and fiscal operation. Raising money is the phase the scholarship organization is in right now in preparation for giving away scholarships in 2018. The question students will need to write about to win a scholarship will be announced in January.

Persons wanting more information or wishing to make a donation may contact Day either by phone at 309-531-0387 or by e-mail at

BasketballPEORIA – For some high schools in small towns in Illinois, returning to State Finals in certain sports sometimes looks to outsiders like a common occurrence. To the folks living in those towns, many probably treat them as something to be expected as that particular sports season winds down. Small Illinois towns like Newark and Nashville come to mind when it comes to return performances year after year.

But in Heyworth, getting to State has been a rarity that comes rarely and therefore, the teams, fans, and town make the most of the occasion. In November 2010, Heyworth High’s Volleyball team made its maiden appearance at Illinois High School Association State Volleyball. This past weekend, the Hornets’ boys basketball team landed on the big stage at Carver Arena here to compete for IHSA Class 2A State title.

Mooseheart (28-3) came out firing from the opening tip, jumping out to a fast 7-0 lead on a layup by junior guard Hameed Odunewu followed by a layup and a jump shot by senior guard Mangisto Deng. Heyworth senior forward Kaleb Marr entered the record books as the first Hornets player to score points in a State championship game thanks to a deuce at 6:40 in the period, cutting Mooseheart’s lead, 7-2.

But another Deng trey pushed Mooseheart up, 10-2, starting a 12-0 run that Heyworth (26-7) could not contain, giving the Red Ramblers a 19-2. A trey by junior guard Hayden Boyd at 2:26 in the quarter, cut Mooseheart’s lead, 19-5. Senior center Colten Reeves, coming off the bench, would be the only other Hornets player to score in the quarter, as Mooseheart owned a 21-7 lead going into the second quarter.

Whereas the first quarter showed that height and speed were Mooseheart’s trademarks, the second quarter proved one of Heyworth’s greatest strengths was making adjustments. When Hornets senior forward hit a jumper at 5:44 reducing Mooseheart’s lead to 21-9. A trey by Hornets senior guard Adam Wickenhauser at 4:57 shrank the lead to 21-12. Mooseheart edged out a little further, 24-12, with on Deng free throws.

But no one could imagine what was coming after that from the Hornets, starting with a pair of free throws from Reeves cutting the lead, 24-14 . Reeves’ freebies were the start of a comeback as they were followed by another Wickenhauser trey at 3:04 in the quarter, making the score 24-17. Mooseheart did manage a deuce by senior forward Makur Puou, and another Deng free throw, putting the Red Ramblers up, 27-17. But the Hornets kept coming from there, as senior guard Justin Witten hit a trey at 2:08 to close the lead, 29-20. Deng hitting another jumper to put Mooseheart up 31-20 didn’t seem to faze the Hornets, as senior forward Logan Johnson swished two free throws through the net after being fouled, cutting the lead, 31-22, with 1:49 until halftime. Mooseheart sophomore guard Freddie Okito got the last Red Rebels basket of the half, putting his team up, 33-22. But using a trey and a layup, respectfully, Wickenhauser and Witten closed out the deficit at the half, 33-27.

Heyworth managed to maintain the pace they had established before the half a little longer once the third quarter began, as Wickenhauser hit a pair of unanswered jumpers to open the period, narrowing Mooseheart’s lead, 33-31. Heyworth extended the run further — taking the lead for the first and only time in the game, 34-33, on a trey by Marr. Heyworth fans among the roughly 4,400 fans in the arena screamed and cheered as their team demonstrated their sting during the onslaught. But as quickly as Heyworth caught up, Moosehart, the Red Rebels were on the march again on a jumper and two free throws by Puou, followed by a jumper by Deng, charging forward again, 39-34 on their way to a 45-38 lead going into the fourth quarter. Mooseheart opened the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run, starting with a layup from senior guard J.J. Odunsi. The Barrage ended once Marr hit a layup for the Hornets, cutting Mooseheart’s lead, 54-40, with 5:18 left in the contest. Free throws by Schultz and senior guard Dallas Lee helped Heyworth curb Mooseheart briefly before the Red Ramblers charged forward one last time toward the eventual final score, starting with a free throw shot by Deng, having been fouled by Marr.

Deng, nephew of former Chicago Bulls center Luol Deng, was Moosehart’s leading scorer in the contest, with 27 points. He was followed in double figures by 15 from Puou, and 11 from junior guard Hameed Odunewu. Wickenhauser was Heyworth’s lone man in double digits with 16 points.

“Early on, we were very passive in everything we were doing offensively and defensively,” Hornets head coach Tom Eller said. “Mooseheart built a substantial lead on us. We talked at the end of the first quarter about the need to get more physical and chip away at the lead, and we started doing that in the second quarter.

“In the third quarter, we ended up taking the lead, and at that point, I thought we were going to continue rolling,” Eller said. “The downside is, when you battle back from 17 points down, essentially taking a run of 18 points to take the lead by one, it takes a lot out of the kids.

“We were pressuring Moosehart full court for most of that time,” Eller said of the period when the Hornets made their impressive run at the Red Ramblers. “We were getting kids in foul trouble, and we were turning to our bench for our guys to step up for guys who were in foul trouble, and they did a fantastic job today.

“I think it wore on us to go up and down the court consistently, but we did,” Eller continued. “It got a little bit away from us in the fourth quarter where we couldn’t put a run together to come back.” Eller added he was surprised the Hornets fell as far behind as they did against Mooseheart, but that his team initiated a rally to rebound from the early deficit was no surprise.

Heyworth Hornets Heyworth put up a lot of shots in the contest, going 17-for-73 from the field, including giving out 30 3-point tries, six of which earned points. Each team had a total of 41 rebounds, but Heyworth outpaced Mooseheart in that category in the first half, 27-11.

In talking about the second quarter trey that got the Hornets rally its needed push, Wickenhauser said, “It was fun and I was glad I could do it being able to come off the bench and shoot it. I had confidence.

Summing up the season for his Hornets, Eller said, “If you had come to me at the beginning of the season and told me we would finish second in the state, I’d have been thrilled with that. I still am. To go through the different injuries and illnesses that hit our team this year…you’re talking about a group that was looking to win a Regional championship at the beginning of the year.

Eller’s final summation included mentioning that prior to this year, the closest Heyworth has ever gotten before was a Sectional championship. “But ending up in the championship game, in the state tournament, even though we came up short, is something that these kids and the coaching staff will remember, and the Town of Heyworth is going to remember for years and years to come,” he concluded.

“I’ve never seen a team shoot the ball out that far,” Mooseheart head coach Ron Ahrens said about the shots the Hornets took in the midst of their rally. “They were shooting from a long ways out. You know, stuff we wouldn’t even defend. But the thing I thought about them from the beginning is they are one of the more balanced teams we would face all year. I thought they played extremely hard.”

Ahrens said he told his players at one point in the game he didn’t think they were “matching Heyworth’s intensity level. We needed to match their intensity. That was something I liked about them. We knew it was going to be tough going in.”

Hornets Beats Sesser-Valier In Semifinal: 57-51: Eller said the realization of what his team had accomplished really did not sink in until after the Hornets’ 57-51 win over Sesser-Valier in the first semifinal contest on Friday. “It’s just unbelievable what we’ve done and what the kids have accomplished, the teamwork that they’ve given, and the dedication that they’ve given to the coaching staff this season,” he said.

But it was real and Sasser (22-11 after this game) found out early how seriously the Hornets were about taking the first step to being in a State Championship game. Dallas Lee will go down in local sports lore as the very first Heyworth player to score points in a State semifinal contest, as he sank a tip-in bucket at 6:28 of the first quarter in the Hornets’ semifinal against Sesser-Valier, putting Heyworth up, 2-0. In fact, Lee scored the first two buckets of the semifinal, and senior guard Wesley Anderson added another bucket, giving Heyworth a quick 6-0 start on the road to a possible championship. A deuce by Sesser senior guard Tyler Baxter cut off that run, but Heyworth found themselves up, 6-2.

Sasser senior center Nick McCarty’s jumper at 4:19 in the first quarter cut Heyworth’s lead, 6-4, but a Marr trey at 3:11 put the Hornets up, 9-4. a deuce by junior guard Logan Barrett cut that lead, 9-6, but Marr hit his second trey of the quarter, putting Heyworth up, 11-6 at 1:24. Two free throws by Lee and a layup from Schultz would give the Hornets a healthy 15-6 lead.

Lee would foul Sasser junior guard Nick Marlo, who would convert two free throws, followed by a three from junior guard Jake Vanwey, cutting Heyworth’s lead, 15-11, with 7:06 in the second quarter. Vanwey would hit a trio of threes in the period, cutting Heyworth’s advantage to one, 18-17, with 5:01 left until the half. Heyworth would stretch its lead, 24-19, on a pair of free throws from Witten and a Johnson jumper. Unanswered jumpers by Marlo and Baxter would reduce Heyworth’s lead, 24-23, before Boyd would hit a three, putting Heyworth up, 18-23. Sasser responded with one jumper each from Marlo and junior forward Luke Thompson, but the Hornets would still hold a 28-27 halftime lead.

Baxter, McCarty, and Marlo would combine to make the beginning of the third quarter tough on Heyworth, as the Red Devils took the lead, 34-31, at the 4:26 mark. Schultz’s deuce at 2:57 cut that lead to 34-33, and Boyd sank a trey with an assist from Schultz, allowing Heyworth to retake the lead, 36-34, going into the fourth quarter.

Witten opened the fourth quarter being fouled as he hit a deuce, and converted the free throw, putting Heyworth up, 39-34 at the7:12 mark. Thompson responded with a trey at 6:53, cutting the Hornets’ lead, 39-37. Marlo fouled Marr, who subsequently hit two free throws, putting Heyworth up, 41-37. A Vanwey jumper would put Sasser within two, 41-39, but a jumper by Witten and jumper-free throw combination after being fouled helped Lee add to the total, giving Heyworth a 46-39 lead. Thompson would get a trey for Sasser, cutting that lead, 46-42, but Heyworth would outpace Sasser, 8-2, to take a 54-44 lead with 1:29 left, giving the Hornets plenty of room toward earning a first semifinal victory.

Boyd led all scorers with 15 points. Marr followed for Heyworth with 12, and Lee added 10. Vanwey’s 13 led Sasser’s attack, followed by 10 from Marlo.

“Offensively, we struggled today,” Eller admitted. “We shot 26 percent for the game. The thing that carried us today, and this has been the issue for us in the postseason, was our free throws.” Against Sesser, Heyworth went to the line making 26-for-35, or 74 percent of their shots.

“We were able to get to the free throw line and knock them down. That was the huge difference in the game,” Eller said. “Typically, when you shoot 26 percent, you don’t win a ball game.”

“I thought it was a very hard-fought game,” Sesser-Valier head coach Shane Garner said addressing the media afterward. “Both teams had great guard play. I just thought Heyworth answered the call at the end of the game. They converted very, very well from the free throw line. I thought they were very poised. I thought they did a great job of executing their game plan very well.”