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Defense sends Patriots to semifinals

LOGANVILLE -- Coming into its game against Winder-Barrow, the Heritage girls basketball team had shown the ability to score. But Wednesday, the Patriots showcased their stout defense.

Maya Abrams scored 12 points, Sierra Crosson added 11 and Heritage allowed 12 points in each half of a 49-24 victory in the first round of the Walnut Grove Christmas Tournament.

The Patriots, who improved to 7-4, will play in tonight's semifinals at 8 p.m. against the winner of Ola-Walnut Grove.

Heritage led by 12 at halftime, but Abrams knocked down a 3-pointer off a nice pass from Jada Cost, and later, Abrams hit a bucket at the buzzer to put the Patriots up 40-20. In the fourth, Heritage extended its lead thanks to Crosson's put back, Aujana Dawkins and Adelia Hardaway hooking up on a pair of layups and Abrams' final bucket that made it 49-24 with 2:11 left in the game. The Patriots held Winder-Barrow to just two field goals over the final nine minutes of the game.

"Defensively we did a little bit better pressing," said Heritage coach Chris Pennamon. "To be honest, we didn't really run our offense the way we're supposed to. That's frustrating. It was one of the those organized chaos games, I'm not really fond of that."

Heritage opened up a lead as large as 15 points in the first half as Abrams drained a 3-pointer to cap a 9-0 lead and force a Winder time out. The Bulldoggs had a stretch of 6:38 without scoring, finally getting a field goal from Delorean Itabiyi with 6:58 to go until halftime.

The Heritage boys lost their sixth consecutive game and fifth straight by five points or less, 46-45 to Winder-Barrow in a first round game. Heritage (2-8) will play the loser of Ola-Walnut Grove in a loser's bracket game today at 12:30 p.m.

Winder-Barrow led for much of the game until Montavious O'Kelly hit two free throws to tie the game at 36-36 with 5:02 to play in the game. After that, the teams were tied on two other occasions and had four lead changes, with Winder going up for good at 46-44 when Xavier Hester fed Toddric Barnes for a lay up with 1:27 left.

Kendall Isler had a game-high 14 points and Jordan Banks added 11 points (seven in the fourth quarter) for Winder. Rashad Jones led Heritage with 11 points.

The Eastside basketball teams split their first round games against North Oconee with the boy's winning 55-42 to advance to today's semifinals against the Monroe Area-George Walton Academy winner (3:30 p.m.), and the girl's falling, 37-27 to play the loser of Monroe-George Walton today at 11 a.m.