CONYERS, Ga. — Most games may be described in coachspeak terms as a marathon.
But Wednesday night’s basketball game, which saw the Alcovy Tigers (5-7, 0-1) fall 88-73 to Heritage (7-5, 0-1) in both teams’ Region 3-AAAAAA opener can more accurately be described as a full-on sprint.
The score line does not accurately depict how back and forth this game was as both teams saw periods throughout the contest where they’d go on long runs, but the Patriots ultimately took control of the game because of their ability to get to, and convert at the free throw line, outscoring Alcovy 25-7 from the charity stripe.
However, Alcovy Tigers head coach Mack Hardwick was not deterred by this stat, and was in no mood to point fingers at officials as he placed the onus squarely on his own team’s shoulders.
“We got to force the issue when it comes to taking up the contact and absorbing the contact going up,” said Hardwick. “You cannot blame the game on calls. We could have still forced the issue a little bit more by attacking the basket more and a little bit harder.”
Attacking the basket was at the forefront for both teams as each squad played an aggressive, up-tempo brand of offense that saw players running the ball up the court as quickly as possible for a high-percentage shot.
Both teams were also aggressive on defense as they each displayed some form of press defense for the majority of the contest.
The Tigers went into halftime trailing the Patriots 43-35 in a fairly high-scoring first half affair, and the Patriots’ aforementioned ability to get to the free throw line was a problem early on for the Tigers as they were outscored 13-5 from the line in the opening half.
It was Alcovy showing the hot hand coming out of the half as it went on a 19-10 run in the first six minutes that quickly brought the Tigers their first lead since the first quarter of the game by a score of 54-53.
Jaylen Williams led the charge for the Tigers with 12 points in the team’s stellar third quarter.
Williams ended the night as the Tigers' leading scorer, finishing with 25 points on the night.
The Patriots finished the third quarter about as hot as Alcovy began it by going on a 7-0 run of their own while holding Hardwick’s bunch scoreless in the last two minutes of the quarter.
Once they gained a double-digit lead in the final frame, the Patriots would not look back. Trelan Scott, who tied Williams with a game-high 25 points, and Josh Guilford’s 24 proved too much for Alcovy to overcome, as the Tigers were outscored 28-19 in the final quarter.
The win gave Heritage two in a row while snapping Alcovy’s own two-game win streak. Hardwick and the Tigers will look to get back to their winning ways when travel to take on the Greenbrier Wolfpack at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Hardwick didn’t sugarcoat the way he and his team felt following the Heritage setback. But he also said he knows the remedy for his program to continue gaining the respect of its Newton County peers.
“A game likes this stings, especially when we went up by two in the third and what not, and it’s one of the things where we’re trying to get out of the shadow of the county,” he said. “It’s very discouraging to lose a game of this nature, especially when we had it in our grasp, but it’s a growing thing and we’re going to continue to grow and learn from it.”