The Effingham Flaming Hearts notched an impressive win in their opener of the Seventh Annual Effingham/Teutopolis Christmas Classic Thursday, defeating Sacred Heart-Griffin 78-75 in overtime.
The duo of Parker Wolfe and Nate Thompson combined for 57 points in the win.
Wolfe was all over the floor on both ends and was able to get to the rim successfully despite the physicality of Sacred Heart-Griffin.
“Parker is always going to play his game,” said head coach Obie Farmer. But as aggressive and as tight as they were playing to him, it’s easier for him to get to the basket. The closer somebody guards you, the easier it is to attack. He was attacking the basket, getting whacked, making free throws, but he takes care of the ball for us and that was big.”
In the second half, Wolfe displayed some of his football skills, going up with one hand above the Cyclone defenders to snag a pass out of the air and took it in for a layup.
In perhaps the biggest moment of the game, with the Hearts leading 77-75 with 31 seconds remaining in overtime, Wolfe poked the ball out of Cyclones’ Jake Hamilton’s grasp on the block, fell on the loose ball and quickly called timeout to give the Hearts possession back.
But that perhaps would not have been possible if it wasn’t for sophomore Brayden Pals off the bench in the fourth quarter. Almost right away, Pals was able to impact the game with his length and scored on a putback with the game tied to give the Hearts a 56-54 lead.
He also drilled a 3-pointer with the Hearts leading by one to extend the lead to four at 61-57. Down two with just over a minute to go, Pals came up with a timely block, one that Wolfe was able to take the other way for a layup to tie the game at 68 with 58 seconds remaining.
But the Cyclones took the lead on a layup from Hamilton, Pals was fouled and went to the line with 18.7 seconds left with his team down two. But the sophomore knocked down both free throws to tie the game at 70 and go to overtime.
“We weren’t sure how Brayden was going to handle this type of pressure,” Farmer said. “We kind of held off and held off. But when Nate had to come out, we put Brayden in. We just thought we’d have to buckle up and see what we could do. With him being so young, he hasn’t really been tested at the varsity level yet.
“But when he came in he made an immediate impact. He was rebounding, making shots underneath and shot the one in the corner. He stepped up and did big things.”
Wolfe finished with a game-high 31 points, while Nate Thompson finished with 26. Pals scored nine, Tate Niebrugge five, Jacob Stoneburner three and ten rebounds, Drew Thompson three and Garrett Wolfe one.
Up next, the Flaming Hearts will take on Chicago Corliss at 2 p.m. Friday.