It took until the latter stages of the third quarter, but visiting Heritage finally shook loose from rival Liberty, and pulled away during a dominant fourth quarter for the 76-57 victory, keeping the Patriots unbeaten in Bay Valley Athletic League play.
Heritage (22-2, 8-0 BVAL) trailed 31-27 at the half, but got a big third quarter from junior guard Ezra Manjon, who scored 11 of his 19 points in the third. Senior Jonathan Ned scored 10 of his 22 points in the same quarter, while Kalil Freeman came off the bench to have a big second half, scoring six in the third and four more in the final period to account for all 10 of his points in the game.
“We got going late in the third, and then really turned it up in the fourth quarter,” said Heritage coach Pat Cruickshank, whose team clinched at least a share of the league title.
The Patriots held Liberty (15-9, 2-6) to just seven points in the fourth quarter, as a four-point deficit for the Lions quickly grew in the final eight minutes. Ben Smith finished with a team-high 16 points for Liberty, but did not score from the field in the fourth quarter, only getting on the board with a pair of free throws. Jack Ruff hit a three-pointer in the final quarter, but the only other points came on a field goal by Ryan Dutt, who finished the game with 14 points.
Heritage led 16-13 after one quarter, but Liberty caught fire in the second half to take a four-point lead into the locker room. Sophomore Jay Butterfield provided a spark off the bench, nailing a trio of three-pointers, for nine of his 13 points in the game. Dutt added five more in the third, while the Lions’ defense kept Heritage big men Ned and Charles Stanford from scoring a single field goal in the period. In fact, Ned’s only basket of the first half was a three-pointer in the first quarter, as the Lions played tough inside the post.
In the second half, however, Ned started drilling shots from beyond the arc, Manjon used his quickness to penetrate and get to the basket, and Freeman and Jacob Williams also started to hit shots, forcing the Lions’ defense to spread to all parts of the court. That opened the door for Ned to go back inside in the fourth quarter, as the Patriots needed just one three-pointer in the fourth – by Williams – to outscore Liberty 22-7 over the final eight minutes.
Williams finished with 16 points, rounding out four Heritage players in double figures.
Heritage has already clinched a share of the league title, and the automatic berth for the NCS Division I playoffs based on both wins over second-place Pittsburg. The Patriots need one more win to secure the outright title, which would be the third league title in school history, and first set of back-to-back championships.
Heritage faces Freedom and Antioch to finish the regular season, while Liberty faces Deer Valley and Freedom, looking to strengthen its seeding position for the post-season.
Deer Valley gets first league win
Antioch went from the highest of high’s on Tuesday, with a double-overtime victory over Freedom, to the lowest of low’s on Thursday, falling 87-74 to Deer Valley, as the Wolverines (10-13, 1-7) earned their first BVAL win this season.
Josh Scott and Jacob Long led four Deer Valley players in double figures, with 19 points each. Long drained four three-pointers in the win, while Scott had a huge fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his 19 points in the deciding minutes, including a perfect 4-for-4 effort from the free throw line in the final period.
Dera Vixon added 18 points for the Wolverines, while Dubem Boardman scored 16 points, creating a foursome that was simply unstoppable on Thursday night.
Antioch (12-12, 3-5) got plenty of production from its starting lineup, even without Jayvewon Quinn, who missed the game due to illness. Solomon Bland and Henry Sires each scored 20 points, while Eric Donaldson added 15 points and Keenami Maggard scored 14 points.
For the second time in three games, however, the Panthers’ bench contributed just two points. Antioch also turned the ball over 20-plus times, and missed 18 free throws. The Panthers need to split their final two games of the regular season, facing Pittsburg and Heritage, in order to qualify for the post-season.
Pittsburg places stranglehold on second place
It was a wire-to-wire victory for Pittsburg on Friday night against Freedom, as the Pirates invaded Oakley and emerged with a 61-48 victory to put them two games in front of the Falcons for second place in the BVAL.
Pittsburg (13-11, 6-2 BVAL) finished the first quarter on a 9-0 run to lead 21-11 after the first quarter, and set the tone for a game which allowed the Pirates to sweep the season series. Dariuss Robertson had a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter, including the exclamation mark on the run at the end of the period.
Back-to-back shots from Jabarr Wade and Trevon O’Neal closed the gap to five points early in the second, but Robertson and Simeon Richardson then combined to score the next 10 points, and a Donovan Crosse field goal pushed the lead to 33-16 in the second quarter before the Falcons got on the board again. The Pirates led 37-24 at the half.
Jaden Shyne had a big third quarter for Freedom (12-12, 4-4), at one point scoring six straight to cut the deficit to 41-32, but the Pirates went on a 7-0 run to end the third and end all doubt.
Like Antioch, Freedom needs to win one of its two games next week in order to qualify for the playoffs. The Falcons play at Heritage and Liberty.