CONYERS - Based solely on effort, the Eastside High boys basketball team stood toe-to-toe Friday night with Heritage.
But at this stage of the season, when teams are trying to build momentum for the postseason, it takes the combination of effort and execution to succeed. And the Patriots had both, clicking in a 62-46 victory at home.
"It was a great effort by both teams," Eastside boys coach Michael Gerald said. "We just weren't able to execute like we needed to, and they did."
In Friday's earlier game, Eastside led after one quarter but a 13-1 surge by the Lady Patriots sparked Heritage to a 50-32 victory.
The Eastside boys (11-9 overall, 3-3 Region 8-AAAA, Sub-region B) found themselves teetering on the verge of being blown out in the third quarter. But the Eagles gathered themselves and shot their way back into the game.
Artis Clanton and Cameron Robinson sparked the push: Clanton knocked down three jumpers, including a 3-pointer, and Robinson hit a basket and a trey during a 16-8 run, cutting Heritage's lead from 35-20 to 43-36 at the end of the third quarter.
"Everybody settled down," said Clanton, who led the Eagles with 16 points. "Everybody was a little rattled, but once we made some shots, everybody got their confidence back."
Eastside had two chances to further cut into Heritage's lead starting the fourth quarter, but missed its first four shots of the quarter and committed five turnovers in the first 3½ minutes. That gave the Patriots (16-5, 5-1) an opportunity to reopen their lead, and they did, pushing their advantage to 52-41 on a three-point play by Juron Dobbs.
Heritage coach Ron Bradley, the winningest head coach in state history, said he was pleased his team was able to avenge its only region loss the season, a 54-53 setback at Eastside Jan. 8.
"Our defense did a good job, and our board game did a good job," said Bradley, who started his coaching career at Newton in 1957 and led the Rams to the 1964 state title. "We had some sloppy turnovers in the third quarter. It would've been easy to panic there, but our kids stayed under control. We made some free throws."
The Eagles started strong, taking an 8-7 lead on two Clanton free throws with 3:14 left in the first quarter. Heritage used an 8-2 run to grab a 15-10 lead. A Clanton bucket brought Eastside to within 20-15 midway through the second quarter, but from there the Patriots scored 15 of the next 20 points, pushing their advantage to 35-20 midway through the third quarter.
"We have people we count on to step up and make plays, and we did not do that," Gerald said.
Neal Latimore scored 13 points and pulled down seven rebounds for the Eagles.
Dobbs led Heritage with 23 points, pacing four Patriots in double figures, and grabbed 14 rebounds.
In the girls game, the Lady Eagles (3-14, 0-6) hit 5-of-7 first-quarter free throws, and Ashley Burtts' jumper from the wing gave Eastside an 11-10 lead late in the quarter.
Heritage (16-4, 6-0) then grabbed control, scoring 13 of the next 14 points to grab a 23-12 advantage.
"Heritage shoots the ball extremely well," Eastside girls head coach Jason Grooms said. "I felt like our best opportunity was to start out in zone (defense). Then we had to switch to man, and they have four great ballhandlers."
Down 31-18 at halftime, the Lady Eagles pushed their way back into the game. Jade Cook's driving basket with one minute left in the third quarter pulled Eastside within 37-29, but Heritage responded with an 11-1 run to take control.
"I'm really proud of them," Grooms said. "The girls played extremely hard. I loved their effort."
Burtts led Eastside with 13 points. Cook added 10 points, and Paige Alexander came off the bench to pull down eight rebounds.
Sarah Herrington's 18 points led Heritage.
Eastside plays host to Cedar Shoals on Tuesday.