Once playful rivals, two Eureka brothers now partners on the basketball court

Adam Duvall
Journal Star
Brothers Trevor (25) and Tyler Heffren bump fists during player introductions before their game against El Paso-Gridley on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022 at Eureka High School. The Hornets fell to the Titans 55-46.

EUREKA — Riding bikes as kids, for whatever reason, always led to Trevor and Tyler Heffren playing one-on-one in the driveway.

The Eureka brothers would spend hours on the home basketball court, "going at each other's throats," as Trevor put it. Two years younger, Tyler normally would lose, admitting his older brother was stronger and knew more about the game.

But how about those times Tyler would claim a victory?

“Whenever he’d beat me," Trevor said with a smile, "everyone would know."

Today, the brothers still go hard against each other — but only in practice as the high-scoring duo have led Eureka to a 13-4 record including Tuesday's 69-53 win over Putnam County. Both Trevor and Tyler scored 19 points in the victory. 

Those preparation habits are what Eureka coach Aaron Dohner appreciates the most about his two leading scorers. He says the brother take the game seriously, go about their business during practice, play hard and complement one another quite nicely.

A family affair:3 generations of one family have El Paso-Gridley basketball among the best in Illinois

“We’ll take all the scorers we can get, for sure, all the time,” Dohner said. “They just know where the other one’s going to be based on what’s going on what the situation is, and they just play so well together.”

Offensively, both Heffrens have no problem scoring the ball.

Trevor, a 6-foot-2 guard, is boasting a 15.0 point per game average, having scored a season-high 31 against Peoria Quest during the Peoria Heights Thanksgiving Tournament.

Tyler, a 6-foot-3 forward, leads the team with 18.5 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. He’s scored 27 points on three occasions, including twice with his brother against Peoria Christian and Lexington.

“I just credit that to my teammates,” Tyler said, “because they’ve just really helped me out, finding holes to get me to the basket. Just giving me confidence, setting screens and doing great things for me.”

Eureka's Tyler Heffren, right, defends against El Paso-Gridley's Asa Smith in the first half Friday, Jan. 7, 2022 at Eureka High School. The Hornets fell to the Titans 55-46.

Dohner has seen a clear jump in Tyler’s game from last season. He’s been playing with his back to the basket a bit more and showing his outside range along with proving he can get to the basket and finish.

That was very evident in last Friday’s game against El Paso-Gridley, during which Tyler dropped a game-high 24 points including knocking down a trio of 3s and scoring on a variety of layups.

“He’s really emerging as a guy who can score from all places on the court,” Dohner said. “Trevor trusts him, and Trevor, I think, is starting to understand more and more when he needs to become a distributor.”

Who's No. 1?:Who's in the top 6? Peoria-area power rankings for boys and girls high school basketball

Trevor is still a bona fide scoring threat but has also become a decoy of sorts. More and more opposing defenses are collapsing on him when he takes it to the hoop.

In turn, Trevor’s court vision leads to open buckets whether on the perimeter or in the post, specifically for Tyler.

“When we get on the court, we just know where each other are and what we’re going to do," Trevor said, “and it’s just fun.”

Speaking of having a good time, Eureka capped its 2021 by winning the Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament for the first time in program history. Tyler was named tournament MVP, while Trevor picked up all-tournament team honors.

Both took a lot away from those four wins in three days.

Eureka's Trevor Heffren, right, moves to the basket against El Paso-Gridley's Jake Funk in the first half Friday, Jan. 7, 2022 at Eureka High School. The Hornets fell to the Titans 55-46.

“Coming off the Macomb Tournament, I feel like we had a lot of confidence,” Trevor said. “Coming into this game (against El Paso-Gridley) as well. From a defensive level, an offensive level, everything was flowing.”

Vote now:Peoria Christian hooper, Illini Bluffs wrestler and more: Vote for the athlete of the week

For now, the brothers are savoring their final few months playing together. Tyler is still working on being like Trevor and showing that innate ability to drive and continue to finish strong around the basket.

Leadership (and, of course, scoring) from Trevor will be a staple for the Hornets, who are searching for their first regional title since 2009.

“It’s amazing,” Tyler said of playing with his older brother. “It’s a once in a lifetime experience. Most people usually don’t get to play with their siblings. It’s just really fun to go out there every game … to help him out and have a great senior season.”

Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at aduvall@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.