The Big Three: Hawks rely on three-pointer to push them to wins

Brett Johnson, Sports Editor

“For THREEEE!”

For the Hawks this season, they have heard that phrase come from the announcer quite often. Of the 1,753 points the Hawks have scored as of Feb. 5, 636 have been from behind the three-point line.

Over half of these shots have been made by the top three three-point shooters: senior Jake Heaton, junior Rich Pugliese and sophomore JJ Pfohl.

“I think it’s really good that we’re reliable from three and that we’re shooting a really good three because now that defense has to take a step out. It just opens up more lanes for Austin [Coene] and every other person to drive,” Pfohl said.

The fourth-place Hawks are currently fourth in the Commonwealth Coast Conference in three-point percentage at 36.9 percent. They outshoot their opponents from three 9.6 made baskets per game compared to 6.7. 

“Everyone can shoot now, so you do need to rely on it,” Heaton said. “Everyone’s practicing it.”

Heaton and Pugliese realized their freshman year that they could be successful shooters from three. But Pfohl didn’t figure it out until coming back from their short winter break this season. 

“I feel like a lot of this year we’ve been guarded differently especially with how we have Austin on our team, so I feel like there’s been a lot of really good opportunities, especially when we have two great shooters in Rich and Heaton. It really spreads out the floor,” Pfohl said.

It’s clear this season that the Hawks have relied on the three-point shot to counteract Coene’s attack through the paint, and thankfully for them, they have three players that are confident in their shots.

But they didn’t become consistent shooters overnight.

“When I got to college, I became more comfortable with my jump shot. Just putting a lot more time into it and being a lot more consistent with practicing my shot,” said Heaton, who has made 45 three-pointers this season.

All three mentioned that they practice their long shot by starting close to the net and gradually working their way back. Heaton said he even takes shots “very far away past the three-point line so I can get more comfortable shooting further away and then those threes seem a little easier.”

“I don’t go in there and start chucking up shots,” said Pugliese, who is leading the team this year with 53 threes. “I’ll work on shots that I’ll take [in a game] and that Coach [Tully] won’t yell at me for taking.”

During games, there has been focus on making that one extra pass, according Pfohl who is tied for first in the Commonwealth Coast Conference with a 48.1 percent three-point percentage.

“I think one of the reasons why we’re so successful this year is because we’ve been really focusing on that and the shots we’ve been taking are very good and that’s why they’re going in,” Pfohl said.

The Hawks are finishing out their regular season with three more games against conference opponents before heading into a week of postseason play. They hope their three-pointer success will carry into the CCC tournament.

“We start in October and bust our butt every single day,” Pugliese said. “Over the next few weeks, just try and prepare ourselves as much as possible for that one week of playoffs because that’s what it basically all comes down to.”