Patriots expecting tough test at state
Heritage tips off against No. 1 seed Hillgrove on Saturday

CONYERS - The Heritage boys basketball squad has an arduous task come Saturday in the first round of the state tournament.

Heritage, the No. 4 seed in Region 8-AAAA, will face Hillgrove, a team ranked No. 2 in the state according to the Georgia Boys Basketball Coaches Poll.

As a result, the Hawks (26-2 overall) have earned the No. 1 seed in Region 7-AAAA.

"We hope we can take advantage of this special opportunity," Heritage coach Ron Bradley said. "Hopefully, the guys will be excited for this game."

Hillgrove is riding a nine-game winning streak and has won 14 of its last 15 contests. Its most recent victory came Saturday during the Region 7-AAAA finals against Sprayberry 60-39.

"They are an outstanding basketball team," Bradley said.

At times the Patriots (18-9) have been spectacular this season, blowing out teams to the tune of 45 points, 31 (twice), 36, 35 and 29 (twice).

And they have two weapons Hillgrove does not: seniors Shakeem Mitchell and Justin Jones. Both have led Heritage in scoring and rebounding, respectively, this season.

Based on their performance, Mitchell and Jones were selected to the 2008-09 All-Region Team.

"I don't know a lot about (Heritage). I know they are well-coached, they play hard and they have some size in the middle," Hillgrove coach Edward Morris said. "What concerns me most is the unknown.

"That is what is tough about the state tournament - sometimes you play teams you know very little about and at this point everyone is a good team."

According to Morris, to stop the high-octane Patriots his squad must clamp down on the defensive end.

"For us, all season it has been our defense," he said. "We have to play good defense."

Conversely, the Patriots have lost four games this season by a combined eight points, unable to finish with the game on the line.

Heritage's most recent loss - another nail-biter - came at the hands of Loganville in the region tournament finals during a 66-64 loss.

Heritage tips off against Hillgrove at 7 p.m. Saturday in Cobb County.

Jason Murdock can be reached at jason.murdock@rockdalecitizen.com.