CONYERS - The Heritage basketball teams didn't enjoy their first forays into Region 8-AAAA competition Tuesday night.
The Heritage boys (1-3) were outscored 10-7 in overtime after Clarke Central's Chad Witcher tied the game in regulation with .02 seconds remaining, allowing the Gladiators to claim a 73-30 victory
In the girls game, the Lady Patriots (1-3) scored only one point in the third quarter and dropped a 55-44 decision to the Lady Gladiators (1-3).
Clarke Central 73, Heritage 70
After falling behind by 10 points in the second quarter, the Patriots reeled off 10 straight to close out the first half, tying the contest at 30.
Heritage senior center Justin Jones sparked his squad in the second half, scoring 13 points and dominating the boards with 14 rebounds.
In fact, Shakeem Mitchell's three-point play with less than four minutes remaining in the contest gave the Patriots their largest lead of the night at 54-46.
But Clarke Central's press fashioned a quick 10-2 run to tie the game again.
Heritage's Jones scored inside with 32 seconds to play to put his team in front 61-59, but Clarke Central's Witcher scored five seconds later to tie the game.
The Patriots retook the lead after a Miles Harris bucket off a drive down the lane with six seconds left in the regulation, but, once again, Witcher struck again for the Gladiators, this time with two-tenths of seconds left to force overtime.
In overtime, Heritage's chances took a big blow when Jones fouled out after compiling 21 points, 18 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Clarke Central controlled the lead for the entire extra period, and a rushed shot killed the Patriots' chances with less than 20 seconds left.
Heritage's Rique Denson hit two free throws with 18.9 seconds remaining and Clarke Central turned the ball on the inbounds pass, giving the Patriots a chance for a final shot trailing 71-70.
However, the Patriots rushed their shot only using six seconds on the clock. They had one more chance trailing 72-70, but Mitchell turned the ball over trying to drive through three Gladiators.
"We had a chance (late in overtime) and we threw it up too soon. We're just not real smart yet, it's going to take a little time," Heritage coach Ron Bradley said. "When we had the ball at the end, you don't want to score too early because it will let them go down and score. We're still learning.
"Just a little break here and there is the difference in the ball game. The kids played hard, we just need to play a little smarter. This was a better effort tonight than our last two games. I still feel like we have a lot of talent. If we can figure how to get the right people on the floor, we've got a chance to be a good basketball team."
Mitchell and Clarke Central's Taylor Layne both finished with a game-high 23 points.
Clarke Central 55, Heritage 44
The Lady Patriots dug themselves too deep of a hole by scoring only point - off a Zanetta Gray free throw - in the third quarter after trailing 26-19 at halftime.
Clarke Central only scored eight points in the period, but Heritage's scoring woes allowed the Lady Gladiators to push their to 34-20 entering the final frame.
The Lady Patriots gamely trained to rally in the final quarter, cutting their deficit to 34-26 after a Megan Jenkins' layup capped off a 6-0 run.
Heritage sliced the Clarke Central to seven twice in the final two minutes on a pair of free throws from Giovanni Sims and a baseline drive from Sarah Herrington. But the Lady Patriots couldn't get any closer.
"Scoring only one point in third quarter, I mean that's the game," Heritage coach Dave LaBarrie said. "I haven't put my finger on it, but this is the third game that we've seen problems in third quarter."
Gray scored 11 points to lead Patriots, but suffered a sprained knee, according to LaBarrie, in the fourth quarter. Herrington finished with nine points and Jasmine Middlebrooks added seven.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at email@example.com.