BASKETBALL: Heritage boys win overtime thriller
Two teams looking to establish identities after some heavy graduation losses met in the season opener on Thursday and it turned out to be a better night for the Heritage Generals.
The Navy-and-Red, who trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half and who were down nine to start the fourth quarter, found a way to get the game to overtime before finally pulling away and beating Gordon Lee, 59-54, in Boynton.
Down 21-11 after the first quarter and 31-20 at halftime, Heritage head coach Kevin Terry said his team finally began to get their legs underneath them in the final two quarters.
“We got it going a little bit in the second half and we shortened the bench a little in the second half,” he explained. “We did a good job of finally settling down and we were able to get some stops in the second half after we struggled with that in the first half.”
Gordon Lee (0-1) opened the game with a 9-0 run, highlighted by a follow-up dunk from senior Wiley Heming off a missed lay-up, and the visitors would extend their lead to 18-5 in the final two minutes of the opening stanza.
Heritage (1-0) would briefly cut the gap down to six early in the second quarter, but Gordon Lee refused to let them get any closer as the Trojans extended their lead back to double-digits at the break.
It would be much of the same in the third quarter. Heritage would score the first five points of the period, but a 3-pointer by Robert Napier and an offensive put-back by Sam Norton once again pushed the Trojans’ lead back out to 10 points midway through the period.
Gordon Lee was content to run some clock over the final half of the third quarter. One possession in particular, which was extended by an offensive rebound by Heming, finally resulted in a short jumper by Justin Wooden, but not before over 2:30 had been whittled off the clock.
However, Cooper Terry would connect on a 3-pointer for the Generals in the final minute of the quarter and the home team would get some more momentum early in the fourth as a steal led to a breakaway dunk by Nolan Letzgus, which got the Heritage bench and the Heritage fans to their feet.
That dunk keyed an 8-0 run that pulled Heritage to within a point of the lead. Wooden would connect on two free throws with 4:10 left in the fourth to finally break the Gordon Lee scoring drought, but Caden Snyder would drain a trey from the corner just seconds later to finally pull the Generals even at 40 apiece.
An offensive rebound and a 3-pointer by Letzgus with 1:24 to play gave Heritage its first lead of the game at 45-42 and the senior would add a free throw with 52 seconds to play. But the Trojans would get a quick lay-up and then force a turnover before a nice inside move by Heming again tied the score, this time at 46-46, with 18 ticks remaining.
Letzgus would get one final look from the corner as time expired, but the ball bounced off the rim to send the game to overtime.
Wooden would scored the first point in the extra session on a free throw, but Heritage would take control for good with a 9-0 run over the next 1:23. Will Allen scored the final five points in the run, including a huge 3-pointer with 2:26 left to play, and his final two free throws of the night with 1:10 remaining gave Heritage a 58-51 lead and essentially iced the victory.
Allen hit 13-of-16 from the free throw line and finished with a game-high 25 points. Letzgus connected on three of the Generals’ 10 treys and finished with 15 points. Cade Collins had seven points, while Terry and Snyder each finished with six points on a pair of threes.
“We’ve got a lot of playmakers and some guys that can do some things,” Terry explained. “It’s going to be fun, but it’s going to be a challenge to figure it out how to use all of our gifts and talents. We started to do that in the second half. We got some drives to set up some shots for our shooters. It was a good comeback and a good win. It was also a typical first game, pretty sloppy, but we’ll get there.”
Wooden had 17 points to pace the Trojans. Heming finished with 14, while Napier and Norton had nine points apiece.
In the night’ first game the Lady Generals, despite having two potential starters out with long-term injuries, had more than enough left in the tank to beat a young Gordon Lee squad, 63-16.
Heritage (1-0) led 22-2 after the first quarter and proceeded to extend their lead throughout the rest of the game.
Emily Wiley scored nine of her 17 points in the first quarter. She finished 7-of-8 at the charity stripe. Haley Phillips had three 3-pointers and scored 11 points for the Lady Generals, while Ansley Bice had 11 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Sadie Gasaway led Gordon Lee (0-2) with six points, while Emma McGraw finished with five.