The Times photos by Maria Leichty 
Nick Burnell (21) finished with a double-double Thursday, 12 points and 12 rebounds.
The Times photos by Maria Leichty
Nick Burnell (21) finished with a double-double Thursday, 12 points and 12 rebounds.
SHERIDAN - Sheridan had a chance to fight their way back into the Hoosier Heartland Conference semi-final game against Clinton Prairie Thursday.

A missed shot here and a missed rebound there allowed Clinton Prairie to maintain their lead, finishing with a 52-42 advantage.

Nick Burnell gave Sheridan that chance after two put-backs put the Hawks within six points - four minutes to go. The 41-35 lead would be the closest Sheridan got to catching the Gophers, however.

Clinton Prairie only has three losses this season for a reason. They produce offensively and Thursday was no different. Any time Sheridan got a big turnover or Burnell turned the momentum, the Gophers would drive back down with confidence and either find a gap for a layup or hit a 3-pointer.

"We knew going in that the defensive side would be what mattered and we couldn't get a stop when we needed it," Blackhawk head coach Chris Schrank said.

The second quarter was Sheridan's downfall. They were outscored 11-4 in those eight minutes after Gopher Collin Stroup caught fire from the arc. Clinton Prairie finished the half on an eight-point streak.

"We can't have quarters like that," Schrank said. "It seems like we do that every game. Our effort was there and there's improvement but it's a matter of executing and playing the way we need to."

Burnell and Jack Waitt sparked the Sheridan offense to start the second half. Waitt finished with two '3's in the third and Burnell had four points. Burnell would add six to that mark in the fourth quarter, going 5-for-5 in the half.

"He's played really well the past couple of weeks," Schrank said of the sophomore. "He's raw in terms of skill. He plays hard and has a knack for getting rebounds and putting them back."

Burnell scored two of Sheridan's first three baskets in the fourth, then had a chance to put Sheridan within two baskets of Clinton Prairie when a Gopher foul was called. But the layup bounced away from the net and he missed his free throws.

The Gopher coach called a timeout with 1:44 left and seven points down. Sheridan's main last chance was after an over-and-back call after the timeout but a 3-pointer fell short for Sheridan.

The next minute was foul central and Clinton Prairie's offense remained ruthless.

Three Gophers ended in double digits - Stroup, Jared Stillwell, and Drew Scott - scoring all but six of their points. Sheridan was led by Waitt, who finished with 13 points while Burnell put in a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Sheridan heads to the third-place HHC game Saturday against Rossville at Clinton Prairie. Tip-off is at 4 p.m.