Warriors’ zone halts Heritage

STEPHENS CITY – At some point following a first half of race-horse basketball Friday night, a Sherando boys basketball assistant turned to head coach Garland Williams and said something to the effect of, “maybe we need to play some zone.”

It worked as the Warriors polished off Heritage, 66-52, in the quarterfinal round of the Conference 21 tournament at home. They will host Woodgrove, a quarterfinal winner over James Wood, Tuesday in the semifinal round.

But the semifinals were not on the minds of the Sherando (18-4) brain trust during the game where it was awarded the second seed to seventh-seed Heritage (2-20), a team the Warriors had beaten during the regular season.

“Halftime we were up a couple, then we spread it out and were able to stretch it out when they subbed out in the second half,” said Williams, whose team has now won five straight since losing to Conference 21 one-seed Millbrook on Feb. 3.

“We had played some man, we had played some zone. He said, ‘Why not drop back into it?,'” recalled Williams.

That the Warriors did. With the score 40-39 Warriors, Sherando came out in the second half and held Heritage to eight points in the third quarter and only five in the fourth.

“It worked,” said Sherando guard Jordan Henry.

In the first 16 minutes, a trio of Morris Robinson, Anthony Cox and Anthony Gray had been the culprits for the Warriors. That threesome combined for 27 of the Pride’s total points.

But, dropping into a 2-3 zone, Sherando squeezed the faucet shut. In half two, it was a different story as Robinson made just one field goal, Cox collected none and Gray scored five points.

What Robinson particularly had done was drive the lane against the Warriors in the first half, either forcing a defender to retreat so he got off a shot around the rim or kicking the ball to a teammate.

But Sherando proved it would gladly let Robinson, who finished with 14 points, take jump shots from around the perimeter. These were not as accurate as his close looks of the second half.

Meanwhile, the Warriors got their production going. Henry finished with a game-high 18 points, followed by 17 for Trey Brisco, nine for A.J. Outler and eight for reserve Alex Morefield.

Everybody had been in sync for the most part offensively for the winners, they just had to shore up the defensive half to move deep into the conference tournament.

The issue seemed like it was going to be decided early as Sherando went on 10-0 run to end the first quarter in front of the visitors, 21-13.

After a Cox basket for Heritage gave the Pride a 13-11 lead, Josh Dolsen bombed a 3-point shot, Brisco connected on a layup and Outler hit a layup. Heritage coach Robert Smart called timeout, but it did nothing to slow the Warriors. Brisco completed an old-fashioned three-point play and subsequent eight-point home team lead after one frame.

But, just as quickly, Heritage exploded with a streak of its own. Robinson’s traditional three-point play started things off. After Henry and Brisco scored four points to advance a nine-point pad for the home team, the Pride rushed back with an 8-1 string of its own. A Robinson conventional three-point play made it 26-24 Sherando with 5:30 showing before the half.

From there it became a matter of one team scoring and the other answering.

After each team had streaked, there were eight lead changes and one tie. In all in the first half, the teams had traded advantages on 14 occasions.

All that came to an abrupt stop as the third period began. Sherando never faltered, toying with leads of one to four points.

After Robinson stole a pass and converted a layup to start the fourth period his team trailed by a point behind Sherando, 50-49. Here came the Warriors. Henry notched a 3-point shot and Outler made a steal and a layup. Henry came back with a reverse lay-in and then Outler notched a foul shot.

Sherando was ahead 58-49 with 3:42 left in the game and the capacity side of the home team bleachers wondered if their guests would ever score again.

Heritage missed seven straight free throws and finally got a trey, but the Warriors had out-scored them by 13 more points.

“Free throws are certainly important. We shoot a bunch of them, then run, then shoot a bunch more,” said Henry.

“Woodgrove is a team like [Heritage]. They have athletes. They can shoot. We’ll have to be ready,” said Williams