A stress-free game was exactly what Bob Barnett needed Tuesday night in his return to the bench.
The Hampshire boys basketball team cruised to a 52-38 nonconference victory over Marengo as Barnett came back to coach in his first game this season.
"I feel great," Barnett said. "My wife came up to me before the game, gave me a kiss and said, 'You're already red in the face. You've got to relax.' "
Barnett suffered two heart attacks on Nov. 20 and missed the first six games of the season. Originally he was told he could not return until Dec. 20, but after meeting with his doctors the time frame was moved up. He was given medical clearance to return to practice on Monday.
"I made it about 4:20 (p.m.), 4:30 maybe, about an hour and fifteen," said Barnett, who is in his 11th season as the Whip-Purs' coach and was recently selected for induction into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
"I got a little bit tired and told the boys, 'You know what, I'm headed home.' "
Hampshire (6-1) trailed for only 40 seconds Tuesday. Marengo (2-6) led 11-10 before an offensive rebound and putback from Matthew Bridges sparked a 10-0 run. The Whip-Purs led 29-20 at halftime. Michael Dumoulin hit 1 of 2 free throws with 6:54 remaining for a 10-point lead, 30-20. Hampshire led by double figures the rest of the game.
Tyler Crater led the Whip-Purs with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Ryan Cork added 8 points. Dumoulin finished with 9 rebounds as Hampshire outrebounded the Indians 41-25. The Whip-Purs held Marengo to just 28 percent shooting (15 of 53).
"It's good to have him back and get back in the swing of things the way coach does it," said Crater, a senior. "We eased him back in tonight and got a nice solid win."
Assistant coach Mike Featherly guided the Whip-Purs to a 5-1 record, including two victories over rival Burlington Central, in Barnett's absence.
"It was nice to be back," Barnett said. "They've got some plays I didn't put in. I've got some stuff that I thought I put in but didn't."
For now Barnett knows he is still going to have to take it easy at practice and continue to have his assistants handle some of his duties.
"After this occurred it changed my outlook on a lot of things," Barnett said. "Am I still going to be intense at times? Yeah, I'm still going to be intense. I'm not going to be the ogre I was I guess. I'm just going to have more fun with it."