BRENTWOOD - In the end, it was better execution in the final minutes by visiting Antelope, which rallied to stun second-seeded Heritage in the quarterfinals of the CIF Division I North regional, 53-48.
Heritage led by 10 points with under five minutes to play, 47-37, but the rest of the game was all Antelope. Sophomore wing Jzaniya Harriel continued to score virtually at will, and Antelope began to force turnovers on the defensive end. The Titans went on an 11-0 run to take the lead at 48-47, but Heritage's Isabella Fabricante tied the game when she split her free throws with 1:06 left in the game.
After Heritage got a stop on the defensive end, it looked as if the Patriots were in an advantageous position, maintaining possession with 53 seconds remaining. A bad pass early in the next possession, however, was stolen by Antelope's Naya Lesane, who drove in for a lay-up from the left sideline to give Antelope a two-point lead at 50-48.
Another Patriots' turnover ended up sending Harriel to the line, where she split her free throws. Heritage never got another good look, however, after another errant pass went out of bounds and the Patriots were forced to foul again. This time, Harriel sank both to finish the night with a game-high 33 points and end any chance of a late miracle for the hosts.
"I just kept trying to remind the girls that you can't make up a 10-point deficit all at once, that we just had to take good shots and keep chipping away," said Antelope coach Sean Chambers. "Once we hit a shot or two, then got a couple steals at the other end, it changed the whole complex of the game."
From the outset, the game was a battle of an evenly distributed Heritage team against the phenomenal show put forth by Harriel. When the Patriots forged an early first-quarter lead, Harriel calmly drained a three from roughly 26 feet, and later replicated the feat. A quick 9-2 lead to start the game for Heritage was whittled to 15-12 by the end of the first quarter, a trend which would happen throughout the night.
Heritage led 32-23 at the half, led by nine first-half points from junior post Abby Muse, with seven of those points coming in the first quarter. Muse would touch the ball only sparingly in the second half, finishing with 11 points. Jordan Sweeney and Julie Ramirez had eight points each in the first half for the Patriots, while Harriel had 19 of Antelope's 23 first-half points.
"After (Jzaniya's) performance tonight, and after scoring 31 in our game against St. Pat's (Tuesday in the first round), it's clear she is one of the top 10 to 15 sophomores in the country, not just the state," Chambers added. "The big thing is, she is able to play in these types of moments. Even if she does make a mistake, she is able to let it go, and go make the next play. I am so proud of her, watching her grow up through this process."
The Titans started the third quarter on fire, going on a 13-2 run coming out of halftime, but Heritage seemed to regain its footing, closing the period on a 7-0 run to lead 41-36 after three quarters of play. The Patriots then opened the fourth quarter on a 6-1 run, but never scored from the field in the last five minutes of the game, with Fabricante's free throw serving as the only point for Heritage in a 16-1 closing run for the Titans.
"This is bigger than just me. I play for my team, my coaches and my school," Harriel said. "Now we just need to go have one hard practice, and then play our game on Saturday. If we play within ourselves, like we are capable of, then I know we can beat anyone."
With the win, Antelope advances to face Bear Creek in the regional semifinals on Saturday night, after Bear Creek defeated Saint Francis in the quarterfinals.
In the other half of the bracket, eight-seed McClatchy eliminated top seed Sacramento, meaning that the top three seeds in the Division I bracket have all been knocked out early, after three-seed Cardinal Newman lost in the first round to Saint Francis. Four seed Bishop O'Dowd is the highest remaining seed, after the Dragons finished their quarterfinal game on a 20-1 run to knock out Miramonte.