The Heritage Patriots varsity basketball team capped off the season sweep of rival Salem 62-55 Saturday night, using a hot-shooting first quarter to quell a Seminoles’ fourth-quarter comeback bid.
Heritage hit five first-quarter 3-pointers, claiming a 21-10 lead in the opening period of play, but Salem trimmed the Patriots’ lead to just six with 20 seconds to go.
Salem’s comeback attempt fell short, however, as Heritage went 4-of-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and withstood five turnovers for their 10th Region 8-AAAAA win of the season.
Heritage coach Ralph Denmark said the Patriots’ quick start was surprising after having the long layoff due to winter weather.
“Our first-quarter performance was big,” Denmark said. “Only having two days of practice and having no games in-between, that first quarter was very important. Our guys came in and I thought we may have a lapse, but they played hard and that’s what we look for. WE always want them playing hard; the rest will come later.”
Heritage carried a 50-37 lead into the fourth quarter, but Salem’s Kristopher Bridgeman knocked down back-to-back 3-pointer during the first two minutes of the period, hitting his first from the left corner and his second from the right wing, cutting the Patriots’ lead to 50-43.
Kaome McIntosh connected on a baseline jumper to bring Salem within five after Bridgeman’s scoring outburst, but Heritage pushed its lead back to double digits with three minutes to go with layups from Byron Adams and Terrell Rainey.
After Rainey’s basket, The Patriots led 56-46, but Salem’s push wasn’t over.
Robert Baker hit the Seminoles’ third 3-pointer of the quarter to bring the deficit back to single digits for Salem and a Bridgeman layup and Quintavious Byrd 3-pointer cut the lead back to 61-55 with 20 seconds left in the game.
The Seminoles never threatened again, however, as they were unable to force a turnover before time expired. Isaiah Banks went 1-of-2 at the free-throw line down the stretch for Heritage, sealing the seven-point victory.
Bridgeman finished with eight points in the quarter, but his game-high 16 points wasn’t enough, as Salem dropped to 3-11 in region play.
With the win, Heritage held on to its third place standing in the region with just a week to go in the regular season.
“It’s a good win,” Denmark said. “We’re continuing to get better and we’re looking forward to the region tournament. It’s going to be an interesting tournament because so many teams are continuing to improve.”
Heritage jumped out to an 11-point first-quarter lead, connecting on five shots from beyond the arc. Salem and Heritage traded baskets to set the game, but Heritage extended its lead with 3-pointers from Rashad Jones, Jordan Thomas and Trevor Campbell.
Heritage committed six turnovers in the second period, but opened the quarter on a 5-2 run with an Andre Harris layup and Banks basket, extending its lead to 26-12.
Salem cut Heritage’s margin to nine on a Demyon Greenwood jumper with 1:46 and had an opportunity to cut into the Patriots’ lead further after Heritage’s San Marteen Rozier was whistled for a technical foul. Salem was unable to convert the free throws after the foul, shooting just 1-of-5 from the charity stripe during the quarter.
Thomas hit a layup to end the Patriots’ scoring for the half, sending Heritage into halftime with a 32-22 lead.
Heritage and Salem traded baskets to open the third quarter, combining for 21 points in the period. Salem cut the lead to single digits again on a McIntosh jumper with 1:50 to go in the quarter, and Baker scored six points in the quarter to help Salem’s comeback bid. Jones matched Baker’s output with eight points in the quarter for Heritage, helping the Patriots take an 11-point lead into the fourth.
Jones finished with a team-high 13 points for Heritage, while Campbell and Thomas finished with 12 points each.
Baker finished with 11 points for the Seminoles.
Heritage returns to action Tuesday at home against Flowery Branch, while Salem hosts Apalachee at home on Monday.