Guard play sparks Heritage to sweep

CONYERS - The Heritage basketball teams used the same formula - strong guard play - to chalk up a sweep against visiting Brookwood on Tuesday night.

Junior guard Sarah Herrington fired in a game-high 21 points to lead the Heritage girls (4-2) to a 51-35 win over the Lady Broncos in the opener.

In the nightcap, senior guard Blake Craft provided the key plays down the stretch as the Patriots (4-2) rallied from a five-point deficit in the final 3:05 to claim a 48-41 win.

The Heritage girls built a 26-17 halftime lead on the inside play of junior Precious Elkins, who had 10 points and five rebounds in the first half.

But the second half belonged to Herrington, who fired in 18 of her game-high 21 points as the Lady Patriots never allowed the Lady Broncos to rally. She also added seven rebounds and two steals.

She started her strong second half by dropping in a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter and then, in the fourth quarter, she connected on all eight of her trips to charity stripe.

Herrington's effort was even more crucial after senior guard Neice Lewis fouled out in the fourth quarter.

"Sarah's had nice games in every game for us so far," Heritage girls coach Dave LaBarrie said. "She's stepped up to become the player for us right now. Neice (Lewis) is going to come along. She's injured, she's got a bad finger right now, so she's missing a lot of her shots. But Sarah has stepped up and is carrying the load right now.

"I have some good guard play. When a guard fouls out (this year), I'm not going to be hurt as much as last year."

Lewis finished the game with 10 points and two steals, while Elkins tallied 10 points and seven rebounds.

"I have a lot of new players, so the kids are still trying to learn my system and what I want them to do, and it's not there yet," LaBarrie said. "We've got a lot of room for improvement, so that makes me feel good. A lot of the teams we're going to play aren't going to get any better, but we're going to get better."

In the boys game, Heritage struggled to find its rhythm in the first half as the two squads reached halftime tied at 21.

The Patriots took a 34-33 lead into the final quarter, but Brookwood reeled off six straight points to build a five-point advantage with 3:57 remaining.

Fifty seconds later, Craft made his first big play, nailing a 3-pointer - Heritage's first points of the quarter - that ignited the Patriots' 14-2 run to close the game. Then, he scrambled for a defensive rebound and his outlet pass sent Key Wade off on a coast-to-coast fast break layup that tied the game.

At the 2:20 mark, Craft gave Heritage the lead for good by nailing another trey from the top of the key. Forty seconds later, his assist set up Juron Dobbs' 6-footer off the glass.

In the final minute, Craft and Dobbs each knocked down a pair of free throws to ice the victory.

"Those two big 3-pointers by Blake sort of turned it around for us," Heritage boys coach Ron Bradley said. "They were up five and hit those two (shots) and it went the other way. That little spurt was the difference.

"We still haven't gotten to where we want to be, but we're a pretty new team. We're still trying to put something together, and I think we're close. It's just those little bitty things here and there."

Dobbs had 16 points and 10 points to pace the Patriots, while Craft chipped in 10 points. Justin Jones added six points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots in the middle.

Jeff Gillespie can be reached at jeff.gillespie@rockdalecitizen.com.