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Heritage knocks off Rockdale, snaps nine-game losing streak to rivals

If Saturday was any indication, there may be a changing of the guard in boy’s basketball in Rockdale County. Eric McIver had 21 points and nine rebounds, Rashad Jones added 16 points, and Heritage never trailed in defeating Rockdale 76-62 at Cleveland Stroud Gymnasium.

It’s the first win for Heritage over its county rival in 10 tries. The last Patriots win was a 68-49 victory in January, 2008.

The Patriots had their largest lead at 56-38 heading into the final quarter. The host Bulldogs got seven of C.J. Wilson’s game-high 29 points during a 10-0 run that made it 56-48 with 5:45 left in the game. But Heritage, as it had all night, kept Rockdale at bay. Dave Rowe drained a pair of three-pointers, McIver, who dominated the paint for much of the night, had consecutive put backs, and Heritage put the win away hitting 6-of-8 free throws inside the final minute of the game.

“He’s a workhorse in practice, he just goes to work,” Heritage coach Drew Williams said of McIver. “We’re really starting to see the dividends of his hard work. Any time you play Rockdale it’s a fun night and big night. It’s good to come over here and win after getting beat by them the last couple years (and) it’s probably the most complete game that we’ve played.”

Heritage raced out to a 15-4 lead after McIver threw down a dunk on an alley-oop pass from Steven Everson with 1:36 to play in the opening quarter. The Bulldogs stayed in the game thanks to their long-range shooting as Wilson hit three from behind the arc, and Darious Mitchell and LaRonte Parks added one each to keep the game tight at 26-21 midway through the second. Heritage never let the margin get below five points the rest of the way, though, and Kristopher Bridgeman had all four of his points and an assist on a bucket by Jones that helped the Patriots end the half up 38-27.

Rockdale got as close as 11 points in the third before McIver threw down an empathic dunk, and later, Terrell Rainey had two of his 13 points on a put back that made it 56-38 after three.

“It’s always hard to go (to Rockdale) and win, it’s always hard to beat their teams,” Williams said. “We caught them on a good night I guess, and we really played hard.”