The game was played in front of a nearly full, loud crowd with cheerleaders from both teams competing to out cheer each other.
The first half of the game was played at a very past pace with several shifts of momentum. The opening quarter had multiple lead changes as Freedom jumped to an 11-7 lead. In what would be a theme of the night, however, the Patriots closed the quarter on a 12-0 run and ended the quarter with a 19-11 lead, helped by Heritage guard Dorian Hardy’s two three pointers and eight points.
The second quarter was all Falcons, who started on a 14-4 run that tied the game at 25. The teams then swapped baskets until the final seconds of the half. Right before the buzzer, Hardy buried another three, providing the Patriots with a 34-31 lead at the half.
Heritage never trailed after that, as they started the third quarter on a 7-0 run. The Falcons had a few nice runs but never got any closer than three points for the rest of the night. The Patriots scorers were led by Mark Winthrop with 24 points followed by Hardy with 20.
“I thought we had to battle all night long, and we knew that would happen,” said Heritage Coach Pat Cruickshank. “When you play a team for the fourth time and you really know each other really well, it was just going to be a battle.
“We knew that they’d come out strong early, and we kept saying that we just need to weather that. And they did, I thought that they responded like the champions of this league, like they’ve done all year. We executed, we defended when we needed to; pretty good performance.”
When asked about what he wants his team to improve on, Cruickshank laughed and said, “I think that we’re just going to enjoy this one right now, and we’ll worry about whose going to be in here next week.
“I like our performance tonight. I like our team; I’ve liked our team all year. I think that we play with a lot of heart. I’ll take our guys anywhere to play against anyone. I know that now we are getting to the next level and now these teams are that much better. So we’re going to have to step up and play better, even better than we did tonight.”
The Falcons were led by Nick Blount, who, playing in his final high school game, had 21 points, followed by Andrew Garner with 16 and Darrell Greene with 15 – 13 of them in the second half.
Heritage’s playoff run continues at 7:30 p.m. in the Heritage gym against Castro Valley, a higher seeded team. The game is at Heritage because the Patriots are league champions.