CONYERS - The Heritage basketball teams are headed in opposite directions with one game left in the regular season.
The Heritage boys (19-5 overall, 8-1 in 8-AAAA South) celebrated Senior Night in a big way Tuesday, wrapping up the subregion title with a 63-50 victory over Cedar Shoals.
Meanwhile, the Heritage girls (18-6, 7-2) lost control of their postseason destiny after dropping 69-56 decision to the Lady Jaguars in the opening game.
Heritage 63, Cedar Shoals 50
The Patriots won by 13 points, but it wasn't nearly as easy as the score indicates.
In the first half, Heritage appeared on the verge of breaking open the game after back-to-back 3-points by Shakeem Mitchell gave the Patriots a 29-18 advantage.
But Cedar Shoals steadily worked its way back into the contest. Thanks in part to a 10-2 run late in the second quarter, the Jaguars trailed 36-31 at halftime.
Late in the third quarter, Cedar Shoals went on a 7-0 run in the final minute to take the lead. Bubba Freeman's 3-pointer from the corner started the run. Kory Kilpatrick's free throws after the buzzer closed it out, giving the Jaguars a 48-45 lead going into the final period.
All season, Heritage's balanced offensive attack has been one of the key reasons for its success.
In the fourth quarter, Cedar Shoals found out the Patriots can play defense, too. The Jaguars scored only two points in the final period, and they came with two minutes left in the game. Heritage has allowed 50 points or less in six straight games.
Blake Craft's 3-pointer to open the fourth period tied the game for Heritage. Mitchell's 15-foot jumper gave the Patriots the lead.
Key Wade also scored two buckets during a 10-0 run that gave Heritage a 55-48 advantage.
After Cedar Shoals' only basket of the quarter, the Patriots reeled off the final eight points of the contest to wrap the victory.
"We got into a little trouble in the third quarter. Cedar Shoals played really well," Heritage coach Ron Bradley said. "It was looking like we might break it open in the first half, but they (Cedar Shoals) hung in there and made some big shots. In the second half, they got up by three points and we were in real dogfight.
"In the fourth quarter, we went to a man-to-man defense to cut down on their 3-pointers and make them work to stay in the game. It really made a big difference for us."
Justin Jones paced Heritage with 16 points and 22 rebounds. Juron Dobbs and Mitchell added 14 points, while Craft and Wade each finished with eight
Cedar Shoals 69, Heritage 56
The Lady Jaguars seized control of the game in the first half, building a 33-24 lead by halftime.
In the second half, the Lady Patriots could not gain any ground until the fourth quarter.
Precious Elkins' three-point play with 3:42 left in the contest sliced the Cedar Shoals lead to 56-50. But the Lady Jaguars outscored the Lady Patriots 13-6 the rest of the way to close out the key victory and set up a three-team battle for the top two spots in the subregion.
Elkins paced Heritage with 16 points and nine rebounds. Sarah Herrington added 14 points, and Neicey Lewis finished with 12.
"My team wasn't focused tonight. I'm a little concerned right now, but I've got the experience to fix it," Heritage coach Dave LaBarrie said. "I think we lost the game in the first quarter. Everything went from the first quarter."
The Heritage girls need a win Friday night at Alcovy and then they'll have to wait on the result of the Salem-Cedar Shoals game in Athens to see where they'll finish in the subregion.
If Salem wins, Heritage will finish as the No. 2 seed. If Cedar Shoals wins, the No. 2 seed will come down to a coin flip between the Lady Patriots and the Lady Seminoles.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at email@example.com.