Tied five times and lead traded six times, the Conference 21B contest nipped and tucked through three defensive quarters…until the road team’s offense got on a game-deciding roll.
Final score –
Heritage Pride (14-3, 4-1) 9 11 13 14 = 47
Rock Ridge Phoenix (10-5, 3-4) 11 7 11 11 = 40
Heritage scorers –
Points: Chris Chapman 14, Zach Garrett 13, Garrett Ganley 11, Aaron Maisus 3, Nathan Olafson 2, Gio Seigler 2, Mohamed Sene 2
Three-pointers: Chapman 2
Free throws: Chapman 6-8, Garrett 3-3, Ganley 3-5, Maisus 1-2, Sene 0-1
Rock Ridge scorers –
Points: Blake Blalock 13, Zach Howard 9, Terrell Eldridge 7, Tony Parkman 5, James Larsen 4, Rob Byas-Smith 2
Three-pointers: Blalock 4, Eldridge 1, Howard 1
Free throws: Eldridge 2-2, Byas-Smith 2-2, Blalock 1-2, Parkman 1-2, Howard 0-1, Larsen 0-1
Rock Ridge High School, Ashburn, Va. (January 20, 2017) — Twice in ten days, the Pride of Heritage High School and the Phoenix of Rock Ridge High School engaged in a veritable pitcher’s duel of a basketball game – and like the first time around, it was the Pride who survived at the end.
In fact, it was at the end – of both the first half and the second half – when Heritage was at its best. In the closing moments of the second quarter, the guys from Leesburg ran off nine straight to take a 20-18 halftime lead…then, after halftime, they produced runs of 6-0 and 7-0 to keep the undersized yet scrappy Phoenix at bay.
Heritage senior guard Chris Chapman was instrumental in one particularly crucial fourth-quarter sequence. As the Pride worked with a slim 33-31 lead, bodies clad in both Rock Ridge white and Heritage black madly scrambled for a loose ball under the basket. It eventually got picked up and kicked out to an alone and expectant Chapman, who had a full second to size up the distance to the basket and launch the ball that same length.
The 3-ball he swished through from foul-line extended-left ignited a prolonged Pride rally that pushed Heritage’s advantage to its maximum at nine, with Chapman mixing in a couple nifty assists in halfcourt play, dishing to Zach Garrett and Garrett Ganley.
“Moving the ball and crashing the boards,” Chapman summed up. “Zach had a lot of rebounds for putbacks and kickouts…just kind of how we do things.”
The Pride’s bigger size, and aggressive use thereof, was a game-changer. Three times Garrett got up to clean up offensive boards, laying them back in for two.
“It’s really important, because in a game like this where it could be two, three possessions, we need all the second-chance shots we can get,” said Garrett, a senior point-forward. “Tonight I feel like we got a lot of those second-chance shots.”
That same aggressiveness led Heritage to the foul-line almost twice as often as Rock Ridge got there – 19 free throws compared to 10. It also led to the Pride bringing down more rebounds than the Phoenix, something Rock Ridge’s third-year head coach Jay Geyer harped on.
“We’re 8-0 when we’ve won the rebounding battle and 2-5 when we’ve lost the rebounding battle,” Geyer recited. “We were worried about [Garrett], obviously, in the paint, but we’re just not physical enough right now. But we have it in us.”
The Phoenix were not outmatched. Rock Ridge opened its home game with seniors Terrell Eldridge and Blake Blalock canning threes, and the home team owned the lead through much of the first quarter, nearly all of the second and again around mid-third.
Middle of the second, down 18-11 to their hosts, the Pride got out their bread-and-butter: Defense. Heritage defended dribbles and harassed passes, keeping the Phoenix from good – or any – looks at the basket while leading to scores of their own. The ultimate play of the first half epitomized that defensive tenacity: A pack of the Pride hounded the ball near midcourt, until Garrett stole it and whipped it ahead to a dashing Chapman for a running lay-in with three ticks left.
The Pride went to the locker room with its first lead since 4-3.
The silky-smooth long-ball stroke of Blalock rose to the fore in the third. The left-hander with 43 threes on the year – second in Loudoun behind Stone Bridge’s James DiLuigi‘s 47 – elevated for a baseline triple, then duplicated the feat a little later from the right elbow.
Rock Ridge senior Tony Parkman swatted away a Heritage layup to preserve the Phoenix’s precious one-point lead.
That would be the last big play the Phoenix made while in the lead. Garrett fed senior Mohamed Sene for the go-ahead bucket at 28-27, representing the sixth and final lead-change of the seesaw affair. With Chapman working outside and Garrett in, Heritage wore down their hosts, not letting them any closer than the seven-point final margin.
“Our focus is on defense,” said Heritage’s second-year head coach Samuel Carpenter, who’s made it his business to instill a culture based on playing, and taking pride in playing, defense.
Scoring under 50 isn’t a problem when your opponent barely gets to 40. Twelve times Heritage has limited opponents to 50 or fewer points; 40 or fewer, eight times.
“We’re not going to adjust the way we play,” Carpenter went on. “We like to sit in our man defense – there’s a lot of adjustments we can do with our man, make it look more like zone or pressure-oriented or trap-oriented, but the principles are all the same for us. We try to thrive off of our defense.”
After two games between the two teams in which the average point total was 41.25 and the largest was 47, Geyer said that’s just the way things would go again.
“We could play 10 times and every game would be in the 40s and nobody would win by 10,” Geyer postulated. “If we get them a third time, it’s going to be the exact same game.”
They just might play again, but the next time’d be in a postseason tournament setting. The result puts another full game of separation between second-place Heritage and third-place Rock Ridge in the standings of six-team Conference 21-B, in which everyone’s chasing undefeated Loudoun Valley. The Phoenix are presently knotted with Loudoun County for the third slot, while the Pride are menacing Valley’s perfection, perched merely one setback away.
It will be a big, big game Jan. 26 when Valley ventures into the Pride’s den for a conference-deciding showdown…maybe even an entry for Viva Loudoun’s Hottest Hoops Of The Week.
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
Written by Jason S Rufner
for Viva Loudoun Media Communications