WINAMAC | With North Judson rallying and its boisterous crowd rattling the gym rafters, Hebron's Damon Wallace could only think of one thing.
"Our seven seniors didn't want to go home one-and-done," Wallace said. "We wanted to make our season more memorable."
Hebron (21-1) stormed to a 16-point halftime lead against the defending champion Bluejays and withstood a fierce second-half comeback, prevailing 64-59 in the opening game of Tuesday's Class 2A Winamac Sectional.
Winamac wore down North Newton in the second game, 57-47.
"A lot of people were still writing us off," Wallace said. "We wanted to prove ourselves on the defensive end. Last year, they came out and hit everything, and we felt it was our fault. We wanted to come out and make a statement, and that's exactly what we did."
N.J. (17-4) ripped Hebron 82-63 in the 2011 sectional, but it was clear from the start that wasn't going to happen again. Open looks were few for the Jays and the Hawks' aggressive defense netted several open-court steals among 20 turnovers.
"We've been thinking about this for 365 days," Hebron coach John Steinhilber said. "We watched the film from last year. (The coaches) started working on them a month ago.
"To hold them to 20 points in the first half was just a flat-out great defensive effort. We talked about keeping the score in the 50s and for the most part, it seemed like our pace."
Wallace finished with 24 points and five steals, but sure didn't do it alone.
Spencer Sheets added a career-high 18 points, including Hebron's first seven, on 7-of-8 shooting.
"Spencer became a man," Steinhilber said.
Cody Artuso posted 11 points and six rebounds, while Jay Patz nabbed nine boards. Brad Stooksbury snagged another five steals, locking up Judson sharpshooter Kendall Hochstedler.
"Everybody contributed," Wallace said. "It was just fantastic."
Winston Yergler notched 17 of his 23 points in the second half to spark N.J., which got 19 from Eckert.
In the second game, Austin Williams kept the Spartans (3-18) in it, but Winamac (14-7) was too strong inside and gradually took control in the second half.
"I was proud of the effort. No one expected us to do anything," North Newton coach Tim Feddeler said. "We executed our game plan well. We were extremely patient. We ran the offense until we got good looks. We got after it defensively. They started hitting some shots, and the second and third chances just killed us. You work so hard to get a stop and you can't get the ball back. It was just too much."
Williams tallied 21 for North Newton with Cody Wedding chipping in a dozen.