It came down to Heritage's defense and the virtually unguardable Kamar Baldwin (27.2 points per game) and Heritage's defense won. Up three (65-62) with less than 30 seconds to play, Baldwin brought the ball up the court got past one defender, but was met by another and took a contested three that clanked off the back of the rim and was rebounded by the Patriots. Heritage sealed the deal with a 66-62 victory over Apalachee to put them in the region championship against Cedar Shoals tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at Salem.
Heritage came out on fire, the Pats took a 15-8 lead in the first and they played with swagger and confidence. The Pats pass-happy offense led by Isaiah Banks, who scored eight of his 20 points in the first quarter, gave them a 22-10 edge. However, Heritage's offense cooled down and Baldwin and the Wildcats heated up.
The Wildcats went on a 9-1 run between the first and second quarter to put the score at 23-19. The two teams battled back and forth for the rest of the night with the game tied at 31 heading into the third quarter. Baldwin had 15 at halftime and Banks had nine.
Apalachee and Heritage played the third quarter even and the game was tied yet again heading into the fourth (48-48). Baldwin scored 10 of his team's 17 third-quarter points and Banks added seven for his team's 17-point quarter.
Although it was Banks versus Baldwin in scoring, on defense it was mostly Rashad Jones versus Baldwin. The team did a good job of defending Baldwin in the fourth, he made shots, but some were as contested as you could expect from the defense.
An unlikely hero for Heritage stepped up in the fourth, as Byron Abrams poured in nine points (two threes, 3-4 from the line) in the final period to add to his 14-point total including the free throw that iced the game to put Heritage up 66-62 with five seconds left after Abrams had already hit two free throws to extend Heritage's lead to 65-62. A layup from Banks gave Heritage the lead at 63-62 with under a minute to play.
Baldwin finished with 34 points. Banks totaled 20 points, Abrams 14 and Jones had 11.