BRENTWOOD, Calif. - Cold shooting and a sluggish start on Saturday afternoon gave way to an inspired fourth-quarter effort from host Heritage, as the Patriots rallied past a tenacious Buchanan-Clovis team, 54-48.
Heritage - which has reached four straight NCS Division I title games - never found its shooting rhythm against a Bears' defense that pressed full-court from start to finish and successfully denied entry passes in the half-court game to Boise State commit Abigail Muse and her freshman sister Amanda, both of whom towered over the Buchanan defenders. The Patriots shot just 3-of-19 from three-point range for the game, and despite playing the entire second quarter and fourth quarter in the bonus, struggled to take advantage from the free throw line, especially during a 6-of-18 performance from the charity stripe in the first two quarters.
Buchanan, meanwhile, raced out to a 14-8 lead after one quarter, forcing turnovers with its defense and converting open looks from beyond the arc, as the Bears would hit six three's in the first three quarters. Point guard Olivia Garcia was a consistent scorer for the Bears (8-2), finishing the game with 15 points, but 14 of those came in the first three quarters.
Heritage (2-0) came back to tie the game in the second quarter on a three-pointer from Bella Fabricante, but Buchanan regained a 28-25 lead at the break. The Bears also maintained a three-point advantage headed to the fourth quarter, 40-37, but Heritage quickly changed that in the final eight minutes.
After hitting a big three late in the third quarter, junior point guard Milan Tuttle took over the flow of the game in the fourth for the Patriots, and repeatedly got to the line against a Buchanan team that saw all five of its starters finish with at least four fouls, including two who fouled out in the final minutes. Tuttle drove for a pair of lay-ups in the first few minutes of the fourth, and the Patriots also got into transition, converting with a lay-up from Fabricante, and then a spinning move in the lane by Julie Ramirez, one which gave Heritage its first two-possession lead of the game at 50-45.
And though the elder Muse was unable to get the ball in the post against the pesky Buchanan defense, she did play a primary role in breaking the Bears' press defense, with her ability to secure transition passes and move the ball up the court. In the fourth quarter, the Buchanan defense sent her to the foul line multiple times as a result, and she helped secure the win by hitting 3-of-4 shots from the stripe in the final two minutes.
Tuttle finished with a game-high 16 points for Heritage, while Abby Muse added 10 points, eight of them from the free throw line. Fabricante added eight points and Ramirez added five to round out the top scorers for the Patriots. Senior Morgan Mathis was the other Buchanan player in double figures, finishing with 10 points.
The victory was number 100 for Heritage head coach Rob Ocon.