There was the battle of the signs. On the wall at the entrance to the gym, Patriot fans put up a banner reading, “We have more heritage than you!” On the other end of the gym the Lions’ banner read, “Age before beauty, we have 100 years on you!” Advantage Liberty.
There was the battle of the fans. On one side of the court, loud Liberty fans chanted “Dee-fense!” and gave the refs a hard time on questionable calls. On the other side, the Heritage faithful engaged in a finger-waving voodoo when one of their players was at the free-throw line, shouting “swoosh!” when the ball went through, thanks to their friendly mojo. Advantage Heritage.
There was the battle of the cheerleaders. Both squads put on good halftime shows with the requisite kicks, cheerleaders thrown in the air and hoisted on shoulders. But the Liberty squad ended its routine with five cheerleaders held high in the air, two of them upside down. They also outbackflipped Heritage during timeouts. Advantage Liberty.
And, by the way, there was also the battle of the basketball teams, which was advantage Heritage with a 65-54 victory over Liberty. The Patriots led for most of the game, but the Lions hung in close.
Heritage lead 14-9 at the end of the first quarter with the aid of a couple of three-point shots, and lengthened the lead to nine points just two minutes into the second quarter.
At that point, however, Liberty’s star guard Aaron Meeks, who is anything but meek with a basketball, took charge. He hit several three-point shots, including an amazing, crowd-rousing desperation throw at the buzzer, and was deadly at the line, notching 16 (of his game-high 26) points at the half.
Liberty outscored Heritage 14-6 in the final six minutes of the first quarter and trailed by just one point at the half, keeping it still anybody’s game. An evenly matched third quarter ended with Heritage holding onto a tenuous 43-39 lead.
The Patriots then began to pull away, led by Jordan Knox, who scored 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter. The Lions were still within striking distance with two minutes to go, however, trailing by only five. But Knox’s clutch 15-foot jump shot followed by a charging call on Meeks pretty much sealed the deal.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Heritage Coach Pat Cruickshank afterward. “I thought both teams played really hard. They kept coming after us. Aaron Meeks had a tremendous game tonight. He played really hard.
“But our kids are resilient. A lot of guys on our team chipped in, a lot of guys had big games. Knox did some nice things. Defensively, Jimmy (Enomoto) and Sean Packard really shut down their guys. It was a good, hard-fought game. Two teams in the same city playing for pride and bragging rights – and then we play again.”
The next showdown promising more playoff atmosphere in this great rivalry takes place Jan. 27 at Heritage. Tonight, Jan. 16, Heritage plays at Freedom High, and Liberty at Deer Valley High. Tipoffs are at 7 p.m.