From the opening tipoff it was apparent that this would be a hard-fought battle. The Falcons spread the wealth on offense and applied full-court pressure on defense. Freedom junior Andrew Garner put the Falcons on the board first with a medium-range jumper. The Patriots’ patience on offense paid off when they worked the ball around the perimeter and senior Sean Packard found a cutting Kevin Harrity for a layup. After a classic up-and-under move by Harrity, the teams traded baskets until Garner drove the left baseline for a bucket at the buzzer, tying the game at 11.
The second quarter began inauspiciously, as Falcon senior Nick Blount was called for a technical foul before the ball was even put in play, much to the confusion of all and consternation of Freedom fans. Packard made both free throws, igniting a 10-0 Patriot run that included two three-pointers by senior Mark Winthrop. After Falcon coach Drew Torres called a timeout, Freedom senior Bryan Berry drilled a three of his own to get the birds back on track. The action went back and forth the remainder of the period, and at halftime, the Patriots led 27-18.
The third quarter was fought at a furious pace. Freedom further tightened its defense and scored seven straight to start the frame. Blount drove baseline for a layup, and senior A.J. Monticello picked Packard’s pocket for another. After a free throw by Garner, Monticello stole an errant pass and fed Garner, who was fouled as he made the bunny, pulling the Falcons within two at 27-25 with 5:28 remaining. Patriot coach Pat Cruickshank called a timeout to calm down his squad and the boisterous Falcon fans.
The timeout was a good decision, as Heritage went on a 6-0 run led by senior Meniru Ofodu, who grabbed the rebound of Garner’s missed free throw and fed Winthrop for a short jumper. Ofodu blocked a shot, leading to a Packard basket, then stole a pass that allowed teammate Dorian Hardy to score and boost the Patriot lead back to eight at 33-25.
The tempo of the game increased as both squads started to find the range. Monticello hit a jumper but Harrity countered with a trey and a layup off a Winthrop bounce pass. Garner found Blount for a jumper in the paint, Packard nailed a three from the top of the key and Freedom junior Darrell Greene scored on an impressive power move in the post. Both teams ignored the shot clock as a combined 19 points were scored in the final four minutes of the quarter. When the dust settled ending the third, the Patriots held a 46-36 lead.
Heritage senior Brian Cruickshank knocked down two from the charity stripe and a turnaround jumper in the paint to start the fourth, which prompted an immediate timeout from coach Torres. However, the Falcon foul count was mounting, which put a crimp in its defensive effort. Greene, Blount and senior Wallace Johnson scored consecutive baskets to draw Freedom to within 50-42.
But that was as close as the Falcons would come. The Patriots used a spread offense to take time off the clock, and the Falcons were forced to foul or gamble for steals.
Harrity scored a game-high 24 points, and Winthrop added 13 for the Patriots, including three trifectas. Blount paced the Falcons with 11, followed by Greene with 10.