Long Island Lutheran's Kayleigh Heckel (4) moves the ball against...

Long Island Lutheran's Kayleigh Heckel (4) moves the ball against Etiwanda's Aliyahna Morris (25) during the Spalding Hoophall Classic girls high school basketball tournament on in Springfield, Mass. Long Island Lutheran won 82-62. Credit: Hans Pennink

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Kayleigh Heckel gathered her Long Island Lutheran teammates at midcourt and reminded them that they play their best when they share the ball.

On the heels of a game-changing third-quarter run, the USC-bound senior guard felt Etiwanda of Rancho Cucamonga, California, begin to regain momentum. The Crusaders followed with a stop, Heckel hit a pair of free throws and Lutheran maintained control the rest of the way for an 82-62 victory Monday morning at the Spalding Hoophall Classic at Blake Arena on the campus of Springfield College in a national top-10 matchup of MaxPreps-ranked teams.

“In the first half, the ball stuck a little bit,” Heckel said. “Our goal in the second half was to keep it moving and get into a lot more of our system, and that’s really what helped us pull away.”

Heckel posted a triple-double — 24 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists — for the No. 2 Crusaders (12-1). Notre Dame-bound senior Kate Koval had 32 points and 11 rebounds, and Syla Swords, a Michigan commit, provided an all-around effort with 15 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.

Lutheran struggled to contain No. 8 Etiwanda (16-3) on the offensive glass in a back-and-forth opening half that included 12 lead changes and two ties, allowing 16 second-chance points. But the Crusaders’ full-court press off made baskets and dead balls flummoxed Etiwanda, forcing three times as many turnovers as they committed. Lutheran had a 34-31 halftime edge.

Heckel shouldered the offensive load early with 17 first-half points. “I just wanted to set the pace and tone early,” she said. “Then I wanted to get my teammates involved.”

Lutheran coach Christina Raiti said her team played “really bad basketball” in the first half. She asked her players to return to the team’s principles of pace, discipline and toughness.

“Little bit of nerves, a little bit of getting through their runs, but I think it came down to mental toughness,” Raiti said. “It happens, but that’s why basketball is two halves, and you get to reset and regroup.”

Lutheran went on a 12-0 run in a four-minute stretch in the third quarter, extending its lead to 14. Heckel started the run with a layup and assisted on a three-pointer by Lauryn Swann and a basket by Diora Ressaissi.

Koval scored 19 second-half points, most of which came with the game all but over.

The Crusaders built a 23-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Said Raiti, “Once we shared the ball, got quality stops and high-percentage shots, we were a little more at home and comfortable.”

Heckel and Koval play AAU together and display an advanced chemistry.

“Sometimes we make passes that we don’t even expect,” Koval said. “We’ve just been able to gain experience playing together for so long, which gives us confidence.”

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