The Panthers took a 21-14 first-quarter lead with aggressive team defense and a quick offensive start from senior guards Emmanuel Bradford and Donovan Williams. The pair combined for 16 of the team’s 21 points.
The home crowd was looking for something to roar about, and the Patriots provided the impetus in the second period. The home team picked up the intensity on defense, forcing Panther turnovers that sparked a 6-0 run midway through the frame.
Senior guard Jordan Knox scored six in the period. But it was fellow senior Chris Santucci who brought the crowd to its feet with a spectacular behind-the-back pass to Knox for a layup to make the score 32-29 Panthers at the half.
The Patriots carried that momentum into the third quarter, using a 13-4 run to take an eight-point lead. Senior forward John Moffatt got hot, hitting two threes and a driving layup during the run.
However, the Panthers dug in defensively, led by guards Jordan Hoyle and Jaamal Davis, and forced three Patriot turnovers en route to their own 14-5 run that saw the third quarter end with their three-point lead intact, 50-47.
In the fourth quarter, the Patriots were more careful with their possessions, resulting in more scoring opportunities. Junior guard Sean Packard chipped in with six points, helping propel the team on a 12-4 run, forcing a Panther timeout while taking the lead for good, 59-54. The Panthers were forced to foul to preserve time on the clock, but were unable to convert several midrange opportunities.
Heritage’s high scorer was Knox with 26 points, followed by Moffatt with 23 (including five three-pointers). For the Panthers, Williams scored 23 points and Bradford 17.