At a school the size of Heidelberg, there's a connection between the entire student body. So it shouldn't be a surprise if the disappointment over the HU football team falling in its playoff game had a carry-over effect on the men's basketball team that tipped off roughly an hour later across town.
Heidelberg coach Anthony Gholson said he felt that may have been the case, as his team fell behind Miami-Middletown 46-24 at halftime.
"I think really, ultimately, mentally they were a little bit down because of the football game," he said. "At this school, at this level, those guys all go to school with each other. They love each other, they're rooting for them the whole time. While we're getting prepared to play, they got they're ear listening to the football game."
In the second half though, these Student Princes made sure there was a positive ending to the school's day, rallying for a 73-71 win.
"We had a rough first half where we didn't play our best. We were lazy, came out slow. But we stayed locked in throughout the whole game, believed in ourself," Heidelberg's Jackson Blue said. "We played hard in the second half and came back and kept fighting back, kept chipping and executed in the second half and came out with the win.
"I think we picked up the intensity. We had more enthusiasm, played harder. In the first half we were real sluggish. Second half, we picked up the intensity and got after it."
While an emotional carry-over from the football game may have played a role in Heidelberg's slow start, other factors contributed.
Heidelberg shot 24 percent from the field, including 1-of-12 from behind the 3-point line, Nate Davis missed the majority of the first half in foul trouble, Miami-Middletown cleaned up on the boards and Heidelberg couldn't contain the Thunderhawks' Antonio Ferrell Jr., who scored 22 of his 32 points in the first half.
"That dude's a runaway freight-train," Gholson said of Ferrell. "Then he pulled out a 3; then he pulled out a left-handed shot. We didn't have any answer for him. He's just a physical presence. But Nate was able at the end of the game, defend him and get a rebound when it counted."
The Thunderhawks kept their advantage midway through the second half, before Heidelberg began to claw back in.
"I think what happened in the first half, we played what I call 'My turn to shoot,'" Gholson said. "Everybody was taking shots all over the place. Dudes were shooting 3's and they weren't going in. Then they weren't playing any defense. ... They turned it around simply because we started getting layups. We were taking tough shots in the first half; we got easy shots in the second half. Whether they were steals, or whatever they were, we got easy shots around the basket."
With just under eight minutes to play, Heidelberg began its furious charge. It started with a driving layup from Dane Givner that chipped the deficit down to 15. Next time down the floor, Ricky Slaughter completed an And-1 play, then on the other end of the floor, blocked a layup attempt by Farrell.
Slaughter got fed the ball going back down and hit a jumper to bring HU within 10 at 66-56.
Heidelberg also began to turn things around on the glass with Blue and Nate Davis dominating inside on both ends of the floor.
"First half we didn't really crash too hard," Blue said of the Thunderhawk's early rebounding advantage. "We just had our two big men. Second half we sent most people, had one person back. We got tips, got lose balls and just attacked as hard as we could.
"We just kept crashing the boards as hard as we could. They didn't really box out. They were just jumping. They didn't really get a body on people. So we just kept crashing the boards hard and got tip-ins."
A pair of layups by Blue and one by Davis off an offensive rebound trimmed the lead to one at 71-70 with 2:21 to play.
A steal by Slaughter got the ball back to Heidelberg and Blue drew a foul with 59.3 left. He sunk both foul shots to give the Student Princes their first lead since the game's opening minutes.
The Heidelberg defense made it hold up, forcing Miami-Middletown into an off-balanced 3-point attempt on its next possession to help seal the win.
Gholson credits his team's toughness in the second half as a big reason it rallied.
"Our guys just started being tougher, that's all it is," he said. "(First half, Miami-Middletown) won every 50-50 ball. Then in the second half I think we won most of the 50-50 balls."
Blue led Heidelberg (2-0) with 16 points and 11 rebounds, with Davis adding 15 points. Cody Blizzard and Ishaam Smith Jr. each added 10.