Rivalry is always a motivator—even, sometimes, when you’re not playing your rival.
“The coaches got us pumped up before the game and said Westside would be watching us,” said Wyoming East’s Christian Hedinger. “We wanted to play good.”
It certainly worked for Hedinger, who scored a career-high 26 points and knocked down six three-pointers to lead the Warriors to a 73-63 win over Fairmont Senior in the finale of the Family HealthCare Classic on Friday night at WEHS.
It was the biggest win of the young season for East. Fairmont Senior returns a veteran team from last year’s AAA state tourney squad. The Polar Bears dropped to AA this year.
“I’m kind of surprised to see us play back-to-back good games this early in the season,” admitted Warriors coach Rory Chapman.
East led all the way, and Hedinger was a big reason. He drilled his first trey 18 seconds into the game.
“I was feeling it,” he commented.
Austin Canada hit from 15 feet, and Brett Bowling scored inside to make it 7-0.
When Hedinger made his second three, it was 10-2.
“Christian deserves it,” Chapman said of Hedingers big night. “He works hard every day in practice, and he’s our best defender in a lot of games.”
Josh Tunstalle’s drive to the bucket with 2:56 showing pushed the lead to 16-4, and the Polar Bears spent the rest of the night playing catch up.
It was 18-9 after the first period. Cody Lester scored from five feet and Hedinger added another three to make it 23-9.
WEHS would lead by as much as 15. Devonte Waites nailed a three from the left side as the first half ended to cut it to 40-29.
Warriors big men Bowling and Tyler Lester were in foul trouble in the second half (both fouled out in the fourth quarter), and the Bears slowly gained momentum.
It was 49-36 when Fairmont Senior scored eight straight. Jaron Hilson stole the ball and drove in for a three-point play to slice the margin to 49-44 late in the third stanza.
The Polar Bears got within 57-55 when Waites scored inside.
Hedinger’s pull up three with 4:40 to play stretched the margin back to five.
Travon Horton’s five footer from the right side closed the gap to 60-59 with 3:06 left.
“I just told our guys to stay the course,” Chapman said.
The Bears came down the floor once with a chance to go ahead and came away empty.
Freshman Cody Lester scored inside. Hedinger made two free throws with 1:48 to play to make it 64-60.
East missed chances to increase the lead at the line but were able to hold the Bears scoreless untiil the final seconds.
“During this break, we really worked on our rebounding, because I didn’t think we were rebounding as well as we should,” Chapman remarked. “We worked on blocking out live and transition defense live.”
It seemed to work. East held Fairmont Senior to one shot on most possessions
Tunstalle scored to give WEHS a 66-60 edge, and the Warriors finished the game off at the line.
“I think this will give us confidence,” Hedinger stated.”But we can’t get a big head.”
In addition to Hedinger, four other Warriors were in double figures: Tunstalle (11), Bowling (10), Canada (10) and Cody Lester (10).
Waites tossed in 21 for the Polar Bears, Hilson had 20. Horton finished with 15.
East visits Westside this Friday.
Notes: East is 8-0 in the last four FHCs played at New Richmond.