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Hampshire coach Bob Barnett returned to the bench Tuesday against visiting Marengo after suffering two heart attacks last month. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media

Hampshire cruised to a 52-38 homecourt victory Tuesday night over Marengo in its Big Northern East opener behind Tyler Crater, but the big applause on the night came prior to the game.

It occurred right after the Whip-Purs P.A. system blared out: “Back at the helm of the Whip-Purs’ ship, Bob Barnett.”

After suffering two heart attacks in a 24-hour period on the day of the season-opener, Barnett, the Whip-Purs coach, returned to the sidelines a bit ahead of schedule.

“I feel good,” Barnett said. “I feel great. My wife (Marcie) came up to me before the game and gave me a kiss and said, ‘You’re already red in the face.’ You’ve got to relax.”

It wasn’t exactly doctor’s orders for Barnett to return this soon, but the 25 points and 11 rebounds by Crater, and a 42-28 advantage on the boards by his team proved a good tonic Tuesday.

“Doctor said December 20,” Barnett said of the date for his return. “When I heard that, I’m kind of like, ‘Owwww, come on, the warden at home is pretty tough.’”

Barnett checked out well and got the go-ahead to return to practice Monday.

His team welcomed him back, but he wasn’t quite sure Tuesday morning if he’d get through the day and then the game.

“Then I got my sea legs under me and I felt pretty good throughout the day,” he said.

Things changed a bit while Barnett was gone and his team got off to a 5-1 start, as he quickly found when they ran a back-door play that assistant Mike Featherly had put in during his absence.

“They’re saying, ‘Let’s run ‘state,’ next,’” Barnett said. “They put in a play while I was gone. I didn’t know what it was.

“This is a good group of kids. They work hard to take care of each other. And the job my assistants did was fantastic.”

Added Featherly: “He came back in and the guys didn’t miss a beat. It was a seamless transition.”

Barnett’s players showed their strength on the glass right away, outrebounding Marengo 13-7 in the first quarter and making 11-of-26 shots in the first half on the way to a 29-20 lead.

In the third quarter, Crater and teammate Ryan Cork both went inside and outside to give Hampshire (6-1) a comfortable edge. Crater had two three-pointers in the quarter and eight points while Cork had five of his eight points on the night.

“Marengo is a real physical team,” Crater said. “We know them pretty well from the Big Northern Conference and they always play pretty physical on the glass, but we were able to match that tonight.”

Hampshire held Marengo to 8-of-31 shooting in the first half (26 percent), which helped lead to the big early advantage. Adam Rogutich led Marengo (2-6) with 12 points and Max Kunde had 10.

Now Barnett looks ahead with optimism that things will get back to normal as he has a new perspective.

“I think after this occurred, it kind of changed my outlook on a lot of things to be honest,” Barnett said. “Am I still going to be intense at times? Yeah. I’m still going to be intense, but I’m not going to be the ogre that I was, I guess.

“No, I’m just going to have some more fun with it.”

HAMPSHIRE 52, MARNEGO 38

Marengo (2-6)

Adam Rogutich 5 2-4 12, Max Kunde 3 0-0 7, Andrew Volkening 2 2-2 6, Weston Shepard 1 0-1 3, Jesse Darlington 1 0-0 2, Justin Velasquez 1 0-0 3, Hunter Simonini 1 0-0 3, Dakota Kissack 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 4-7 38.

Hampshire (6-1)

Tyler Crater 10 3-4 25, Shane Hernandez 2 0-0 4, Ryan Cork 3 0-0 8, Brendan Waterworth 2 0-0 5, Michael Dumoulin 0 4-6 4, Matthew Bridges 2 0-0 4, Colin Gogoel 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 7-10 52.

 

Marengo       11   9   9   9  -- 38

Hampshire    15  14 14  9  -- 52

 

Three-point field goals:  Marengo (4) -- Kunde 1, Shepard 1, Simonini 1, Velasquez 1. Hampshire (5) -- Waterworth 1, Cork 2, Crater 2.

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