Clutch kings: Hefner plays hero again as Bulldogs hold off Bruins

Published 12:32 am Wednesday, December 14, 2016

NEDERLAND — The Bulldogs were made for these moments.

Three days after hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer to win, freshman guard Hayden Hefner played hero again and canned two free throws with 11 seconds left in double overtime to give Nederland a 52-50 win over West Brook inside Nederland’s Competition Gym. Nederland’s girls team played Vidor in the Dog Dome.

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Only one thing went through Hefner’s mind at the line.

“Confidence, really,” said Hefner, who scored six of his seven points in the two overtimes. “Confidence in shooting free throws and believing in yourself, really.”

Nederland (13-2) is now 2-0 in overtime games and has scored the winning points in the final seconds of three of their victories. Hefner canned a three-ball to defeat Longview in the semifinals of the Hardin-Jefferson Basketball Marathon early Saturday, and Nederland went on to beat the tournament host for the title that evening.

“He’s got some serious poise,” Bulldogs coach Brian English said. “A lot of freshmen can’t do that. We’ve got a lot of confidence in him, and he’s got a lot of confidence in himself.”

Nederland also beat Barbers Hill 47-43 in overtime and Louisiana Christian 61-60 on a Cade Smith three-point shot, both in the Nederland Bulldog Classic earlier this month.

West Brook (4-6) missed out on a big victory under Hall-of-Fame coach Andre Boutte, who returned to the sideline after spending the past 7½ years as Port Arthur ISD athletic director. But Boutte said he sees the Bruins improving from the start of the season.

“I thought we played hard,” said Boutte, the former Kountze, Lincoln and Ozen coach. “Anytime you have two teams battling for a victory, they [Bulldogs] make one play more.”

Curley Amacker drove to the basket to give the Bruins a 49-48 lead with 3:16 left in the second overtime period. He made 1 of 2 free throws at the 1:27 mark to make it 50-48 before Hefner tied it on a layup 21 seconds later.

Hefner was fouled outside the three-point arc with Nederland in the bonus and made his two free throws. West Brook’s Jalen Frank missed a three-point shot and Nederland forced a following jump shot off-balanced before Jonathan Rayford secured the rebound and ran off the clock.

Senior guard Darrell Jones, dealing with sickness throughout the day, scored the final four points of regulation, including a pair of foul shots with 13 seconds remaining to even the score at 42. A pull-up jumper by Lijon Smith did not fall for West Brook before the buzzer.

The Bruins led by as much as 18-7 in the first quarter but were held to three points in the second. They were up 42-36 with 3:51 remaining in regulation.

“Coach Boutte has always controlled the pace of the game,” English said. “We just had to buckle down and guard and pick and choose when we wanted to get a basket and how to get a basket.”

The Bulldogs never led by more than two points.

Hefner nearly became the hero at the end of the first overtime but missed a wide-open three-point shot from the left wing. Howard was blocked on the putback attempt, and Aaron Brown heaved a half-court attempt at the buzzer that hit the front of the iron.

West Brook missed 3 of 6 free throws in the extra 8 minutes and converted only 7 of 16 for the game. Nederland made 11 of 21, with Hefner making 3 of 4.

Kevin Howard led Nederland with 20 points.

Nederland will rest for two weeks before traveling to Barbers Hall for its Gulf Coast Classic.

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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