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Choate lets his play do the talking

March 01, 2023 - 00:00
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Soft-spoken senior delivers massive shot as HHS escapes Fairview

Layton Choate may not say a whole lot, but his basketball game speaks volumes.

It was screaming on Saturday night.

With his Hennessey team trailing much of the game, the senior led a comeback that saw the Eagles down Fairview 4745 in a Class 2A regional championship at Hinton.

The fourth-ranked Eagles trailed by 10 points after a quarter and by as many as 11 against their Three Rivers Conference foe, one they defeated by 24 points less than two weeks before.

“I knew Fairview was better than that,” said Hennessey coach Brady Page. “They’ve been playing really well and we just jumped on them early that game. We knew this would be a different kind of game.”

He was right. The Yellowjackets still led 35-28 entering the fourth quarter.

Enter Choate.

He had nine points through the first seven minutes of the frame to help the Eagles close the gap.

Still, Fairview led by three with about a minute to play.

Choate had the ball about six feet outside of the 3-point line as the Fairview defense sagged off of him.

He was standing within ear shot of his coach.

“Layton, can you hit that?”

Choate didn’t answer.

He just shot it. And drained it. Choate’s bucket tied the game at 45-all.

“He didn’t answer me, but he really doesn’t say much,” Page said. “And I honestly didn’t realize he was standing that far back until I watched the film.”

Fairview tried to answer, but the Eagles forced a turnover with their press.

Hennessey worked down the clock before Seth Simunek fired a pass into Jael Torres in the post.

Torres stepped through two defenders with a spin move and laid it in to put Hennessey up two with 20 seconds to play.

It was Hennessey’s first lead of the game.

Fairview couldn’t convert on its chances and the Eagles moved into the area title game.

Choate delivered 23 points, seven assists and three steals, all while playing on a bad ankle.

“He had to come out of the Sayre game (Thursday) and didn’t return,” Page said. “And he didn’t practice on Friday.

“He was an animal on Saturday.”

Torres scored 15 points as Hennessey improved to 22-3.

The Eagles play No. 7 Hooker at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Stride Bank Center in the area championship.

Hennessey needs one win in two days to reach state for the ninth time in school history and fifth time under Page.