In the Cap-8, often noted to be one of the deepest basketball conferences in the state, road wins against any foe are crucial. Heritage basketball completed a sweep of Leesville Road Friday night, with the girls never dropping the lead in a 48-37 victory and the boys hanging on to down the Pride in a 66-61 thriller.
Leesville Road took nearly a minute on its opening possession, but still left enough time on the clock for Heritage to drop 19 points in the opening quarter, leading by as many as 15 points.
Leesville cut the deficit to as low as eight in the fourth quarter, but was unable to stop the scoring outburst from Heritage’s Demi Washington, who finished with 18 points.
Knocking the Pride off from the ranks of the undefeated was impressive enough, but the win was also Heritage’s first-ever at Leesville.
“I thought we started really well, we had some really good energy,” Heritage coach Pat Kennedy said. “When you win on the road in the Cap-8, it’s huge … top to bottom, it doesn’t get much better than here.”
Four different Huskies hit shots from behind the arc – Alissa Smalls (two), Cydney Johnson, Alana Brown (two) and Washington (two).
“A lot of times, we’re putting out there five guards, and so we’re very difficult to guard, especially if we’re hitting perimeter shots,” Kennedy said.
It was a game of tug-of-war all night between the Heritage and Leesville Road boys’ hoop team, a battle of small versus big.
For Leesville, it was guard Alex Hunter who led the charge, scoring 23 points on 9 for 11 shooting with five 3s.
For Heritage, it was big-man Jayden Gardner exposing the Pride’s inside presence with 19 points and 14 rebounds.
It seemed Leesville was poised to win after R.J. Wilson finished a fast break feed from Jonathan Mebane inside to keep its lengthy run alive.
When Gardner fell to the ground under the basket with under 30 seconds to go, all the Pride needed was one more turnover to secure the victory. However, Gardner somehow squeezed the ball out to Ian Hinkley near the top of the key, who took one step backwards and hit the 3-pointer despite needing only two to tie it.
“It always comes down to the wire and tonight was no different,” Heritage coach Tilden Brill said, adding jokingly. “Oh, and (that Gardner to Hinkley connection) was exactly how we drew it up, we practice that all the time.”
Colton Reed put the nail in the coffin with an and-1 layup with 18.8 seconds to go that made it a two-score game.
“I was proud of our team’s toughness on the road. We went down early and took a lead at the half,” Brill said. “That says a lot about our leadership.”