Heritage boys basketball is in good hands with head coach Vernon Denmark. The Patriots are currently 9-6 (4-2 region 8-AAAAA) and tied for third place in the region. The only two losses come by a combined five points to Gainesville, first in the region and Apalachee, also tied for third place. Heritage has won five of its last seven games, including wins over Tucker and Tri-Cities, two very good teams. Denmark speaks on his team's latest success and more in this exclusive Q&A.
The Rockdale News: The team has won four of its last five, including wins over Tucker and Tri-Cities, what would you say is the key reason for the team's success as of late?
Vernon Denmark: We've learned to play a little bit harder on the court, play a little bit harder defensively. We kind of had a lapse where we kind of got away from some of the basic things. Learning how to hustle all the time and really give 100 percent effort on the court and we did some things over the holidays to get back to that. I think that's had a lot to do with us having success in some of the games we've had lately.
RN: Obviously, I have to ask you about the Tucker win, they're a 6-AAAAAA team with a lot of talent, college-level talent. Schematically how were you guys able to stop them defensively, because they're a high-scoring team that you held to their second-lowest point total this season?
Denmark: I think a lot of factors went into it. Being in that tournament I think they were a little down coming off their overtime loss to Miller Grove. We were playing in an auxiliary gym so I would love to take all the credit for it, but I do think that there were other factors that went into what happened it that game. But, I will say that we did defend well and we did a great job of rebounding the basketball and making sure that we limited their second chance opportunities.
RN: Beating a team like that, what does it do for the team's mentality going forward? Especially with region play beginning to kick up.
Denmark: It just lets us know that we have the capability to play with very, very good teams, but we have to come out and be consistent and play up to that level all the time. Which is probably our achilles heel at the moment. We don't always play at a high level in each game and we're trying to get to the point where we make that consistent.
RN: It seems like you guys are finally getting into a groove. How far do you think this team can go?
Denmark: When we're playing well, I think that we're probably as good as any team in the state. But again the inconsistency puts us at a point where we're not always playing well. If we can get past that point - and a portion of that is our youth, playing three sophomores a good portion of the game. They're still learning how to play at that high level and I think that if we can get to that by the end of the season then we have a good shot to be very successful in the state tournament.