Hazeltine’s late 3 gives Eisenhower win over Youngsville in Backyard Brawl classic

Youngsville freshman point guard Joe Mack takes charge in the open floor during Tuesday’s game gainst Eisenhower. Mack made some big plays en route to a team-high 18 points.

From the opening tip until the final minute, it looked as if Youngsville was going to stun county rival Eisenhower in the Backyard Brawl.

In the end, it was a Knight returning from injury that saved the day.

Cyrus Hazeltine, who came back after missing the last several weeks, connected on four 3s in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner with 13.4 seconds left as Eisenhower survived, 47-46.

“What a great game for Cyrus to come back, because he’s our threat from the outside,” said Eisenhower coach Ryan Williams. “Hats off to Youngsville though. Jesse (DeLoof) did a heck of a job and those kids played their hearts out. For freshman to play that well against this team, that’s really awesome.”

The respect was mutual between the two young first-year head coaches.

Eisenhower’s Cyrus Hazeltine puts up a shot during the second half of Tuesday’s Backyard Brawl against Youngsville. Hazeltine’s 3 with 13.4 seconds left lifted the Knights to a 47-46 win, their 12th straight as they head into the District 10 playoffs.

“That’s what high school hoops is all about,” DeLoof said. “Rivalry game, either team can win.”

The final minutes of the game were a whirlwind between the 4-win Eagles and the Knights, now winners of 12-straight games as they head into the District 10 playoffs.

Hazeltine and senior standout Jaydon Hayes scored all 21 of Eisenhower’s points in the fourth quarter, and a 3 by Hazeltine, his third of the quarter, got Ike (16-6) within 2, 40-38, with 3:05 to go.

Youngsville didn’t flinch, however, thanks in large part to the play of freshman point guard Joe Mack.

Showing maturity beyond his years, Mack had two huge drives to the basket and finished them both within a 25-second span to extend the lead back to six.

Youngsville senior Seth Ecelberger puts up a shot during the first quarter of Tuesday’s Backyard Brawl against Eisenhower.

“Joe Mack made some gutsy, gutsy plays,” DeLoof said. “He loves playing in games like this. He rises to that occasion.”

After a Hayes offensive putback, the Knights turned up the pressure.

Hayes got a steal on the ensuing Youngsville possession and turned it into free throw attempts, connecting on both to make it 44-42 with 53.1 seconds left.

The Knights swarmed again, as Tajah Warren came up with a steal and found Hayes, who laid the ball up and in with 40 seconds left to tie the game 44-all.

Hayes, who finished with a game-high 26 points, then fouled Mack with 32.7 seconds left, his fifth and disqualifying foul.

Mack went to the line for a 1-and-1, but was unable to connect on the front end. Noah Myers got the offensive rebound and put up a shot that was just off, and Warren collected the rebound, allowing for Hazeltine’s late-game heroics.

“Down the stretch, my guys have played in enough close games that we knew how to come back, we knew how to handle ourselves,” Williams said.

Youngsville’s Dean Procter put up a 3 that was off the mark and the rebound went out of bounds to Youngsville with under three seconds showing. The Knights allowed Youngsville a layup that took up enough time for the clock to hit triple zeros.

“I just wanted to end it with that win for all our guys, because they deserved it,” DeLoof said. “I think that just shows how far they’ve come.”

It was apparent from the early moments of the game that Youngsville wasn’t going to let the Knights come into their gym and push them around in their season finale, which was also Senior Night.

After a slow-paced first quarter that saw the two teams tied at 7-7, Mack, as was a theme throughout the night, converted a strong drive to the rim that gave Youngsville a 9-7 lead, part of six straight points for the freshman.

Eisenhower didn’t lead again until Hazeltine’s 3 that gave them the win.

The young Eagles, who have played in a lot of close games this season, came out in a zone that flustered the Knights.

“I thought our zone gave them problems,” DeLoof said.

Williams agreed.

“Tonight, they came out in a zone and we didn’t handle it very well early,” he said. “I told the guys before the game that these guys (Youngsville) were going going to come and play hard, being their last game of the year and Senior Night. Youngsville threw the first punch and we weren’t ready for the intensity they were playing with early on.”

Mack spearheaded a 12-1 run that gave Youngsville a 19-8 lead, with Timber Bower hitting the first of his three 3s and Hunter Peterson knocking down a jumper. Like Mack, both Bower and Peterson are also freshmen.

The Eagles took a 23-14 lead into the break, but Hayes and the Knights came out with a renewed intensity in the third.

A Mack 3-point play to start the half gave Youngsville a 12-point lead, their largest of the game, but Ross Venman converted on the next possession for the Knights and Hayes followed with a dunk, his first of three in the second half, that seemed to give them life.

“Once we started picking it up on defense, we were able to get some runouts and Jaydon got his dunks,” Williams said.

Youngsville answered, however, as Bower drilled a pair of 3s late in the third to keep the margin at eight going into the fourth.

Bower unfortunately had to exit the game due to injury early in the fourth, right before Eisenhower made its comeback.

The Knights will now half more than a week off before meeting an undetermined opponent in the District 10 Class 2A playoffs (they have a first round bye).

“I don’t know if it’s good or not,” Williams said. “It might be good because we’re a little banged up, but the guys know it’s win or go home and they’ll be ready.”

Youngsville will take a little time off before getting to work in their offseason program, and there is certainly a lot to build on.

“It’s not any different as far as the kids buying in and working hard and the attributes that make you get good, but the improvement they’ve made is obvious,” DeLoof said of the difference from November until now. “When you have the character that they have as a group, their skills are going to improve. They listen, they trust me and they work hard.

“The thing that gets me a ton, from the beginning of the year, I don’t think they expected to win. But now, from the moment the ball goes up, to the last second, they expected to win that game. It’s the process of changing that culture.”

– – –

EISENHOWER (47)

Myer 0-0-0-0, Z. Fincher 0-0-0-0, Warren 3-1-4-7, Venman 1-0-0-2, Hayes 9-7-10-26, Hazeltine 4-0-2-12, A. Fincher 0-0-0-0, Williams 0-0-0-0, Totals 17-8-16-47

YOUNGSVILLE (46)

Ecelberger 0-0-0-0, Mack 6-6-7-18, Hendrickson 2-2-2-6, Myers 0-3-4-3, Bower 4-0-0-11, Procter 1-1-2-3, Peterson 2-1-2-5, Wilson 0-0-0-0, Olewine 0-0-0-0, Totals 15-13-17-46

By Quarters

Eisenhower 7 7

12 21 – 47

Youngsville 7 16 11 12 – 46

Three-point FGs: Eisenhower (5) – Hazeltine 4, Hayes; Youngsville (3) – Bower 3

– – –

JV: Youngsville 35, Eisenhower 30

The Eagles were able to hold off a late charge with key plays down the stretch to come away with a hard-fought 35-30 win.

Youngsville: Dell, Mercado 9 p

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