Heritage made history Tuesday night in the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A basketball playoffs. The boys and girls both got their first playoffs wins and will move on to the second round Thursday.
The 22-5 Huskies girls, playing in the program’s first playoff game, used a strong start and good 3-point shooting to beat Jordan 62-53, and will travel to Wilmington to face Hoggard in Round 2.
The boys (21-7) also came out of the gates playing well and eliminated Southeast Raleigh 71-52 in Bulldogs coach John Baker’s final game. The No. 9 Huskies will host Cap-8 Conference foe Leesville Road Thursday.
The Pride and Huskies boys split their games in the regular season, with Heritage winning a triple overtime game by one point in the first meeting.
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Without a senior starter on the court for either team, Heritage coach Pat Kennedy likes the experience his squad has picked up.
“This is all uncharted water for us, everything we face now is new,” Kennedy said. “We did a good job protecting the lead and we’ve got to learn to make the free throws late.”
Heritage hit four 3-pointers in the first quarter to bolt to a 21-8 lead after the first period and went on to hit five more during the game. But the biggest one came after the Falcons had cut the lead to five, 49-44, but then Alcenia Purnell swished in a 3-pointer with 3:54 to play to stretch the lead back to eight.
“That was the biggest shot of the game, Purnell hitting that shot as a freshman was huge and Allisa Smalls did a great job controlling the ball down the stretch for us,” Kennedy said.
Smalls, a sophomore scored a game-high 17, followed by Purnell with 15, freshman Alana Brown (12) and freshman Cydney Johnson (11).
“We can shoot it,” Kennedy said. “It’s about our good shooters taking good shots, and that’s what happened tonight.”
For Jordan, Talia Barnes (15), Liz Layne (14) and Zaina Hook (13) scored in double-figures.
Sophomore Jayden Gardner, the Cap-8 co-player of the year, was just a little too much for Southeast to handle inside. He scored 27 points and pulled down 17 rebounds. Heritage sophomore guard Jarren McAllister added 15 points, and junior point guard Thayer Thomas made sure they got the ball and scored 10 points of his own.
“I knew I had a size mismatch inside, so I took advantage,” Gardner said. “And it feels great getting that first playoff win, too.”
The Huskies led 21-10 after the first quarter by just three, 31-28, at halftime.
“We did a good job of finishing at the rim, and at halftime we talked about shooting free throws better and getting some stops,” Heritage coach Tilden Brill said. “We made some adjustments and played well.”
Southeast got to within one, 33-32, early in the third period, but Gardner and Thomas combined for the Huskies’ next 10 points.
“Jayden had a big game and McAllister did a good job attacking inside, also,” Brill said. “And Thayer does such a good job controlling the ball and initiating our offense. It’s great to have a point guard like him.”
Malik Ford led Southeast with 13 points, and Malik Bullock added 11.