After a turnover-marred first quarter, the Patriots held a 16-14 lead, thanks in large part to better play in the paint. Center Justin Bunting was able to maneuver around the basket for six points in the frame and block a couple shots on defense.
In the second quarter, the Pirates switched to their signature full-court pressure defense, forcing eight Heritage turnovers in the quarter. After a halftime pep talk, the scoring pace increased considerably in the third quarter. Heritage tied the game at 44 with 2:51 remaining in the third period, as point guard Sean Packard began to assert himself, penetrating for a couple of buckets and dishing to teammates for scoring opportunities.
The turning point came early in the fourth quarter when Pittsburg committed its seventh team foul, which allowed Heritage to continue doing damage inside. Senior Meniru Ofodu was a demon on the glass at both ends of the floor, snagging rebounds or tipping the ball to teammates for additional possessions.
Heritage was called for its first team foul with 1:01 remaining, and head coach Pat Cruickshank called a timeout, during which he emphatically told his team, “We have five fouls to give, and we’re going to use each and every one of them!”
The tactic worked, as every Pittsburg possession was met with a Patriot foul, which effectively stymied the Pirates’ offensive efforts.
“We got some very good opportunities because we were taking care of the ball, only five turnovers in the second half,” Cruickshank said. “And we made those offensive opportunities count. As the game wore on we played harder defensively and got stops when we needed them.”
On Friday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. the Patriots host Antioch, and on Tuesday they travel to Freedom.