Upset alert: Heritage falls short of dropping No. 2 Bearden in final minute
By Grant Ramey | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Heritage made all the plays in the first 31 minutes Friday night against Bearden to keep its Cinderella run through the District 4-AAA tournament alive.
But it was the top-seeded Lady Admirals that made all the necessary plays in the final minute, slowly erasing the Heritage lead in the final 60 seconds for a 56-54 win in the District 4-AAA tournament semifinals, sending the sixth-seeded and upset-minded Lady Mountaineers to Monday’s consolation game.
“You’ve just got to execute and make shots,” Heritage coach Rick Howard told The Daily Times. “We’ve got kids that didn’t handle the pressure right there. They dribble to the baseline and throw the ball away.”
Erin Walsh, who earlier this week was named the Most Valuable Player in District 4-AAA, led Bearden (21-6) with 25 points. She was left open on the wing, off an in-bound under the Bearden bucket, for a 3-pointer that put the Lady Bulldogs up for good with just 28 seconds left in the game.
“We switched on a post-guard (pick) and our post stayed down in the pain,” Howard said. “She didn’t stay with her, she stayed in the paint.
“(Walsh is) the MVP of the district, and you’re going to leave her wide open? Then she picked down, and our other post didn’t pop up and get her.”
Chanler Geer added 20 points for the Lady Bulldogs behind Walsh’s big game. Kaci Mitchell had 8.
Heritage (19-11) was led by a trio that made play after play all night for the Lady Mountaineers.
Jordan Johnson and Leah Thomas both had team-high 16-point efforts while Kassi Knight added 14.
“Bearden beat us twice this year and before we didn’t stay in the game,” Howard said. “We had a chance to win this one.”
Heritage led 40-39 through three quarters, and built the lead to 47-42 early in the fourth quarter behind one of Johnson’s four 3-pointers.
Geer and Walsh answered with a bucket and a 3 on back-to-back possessions for Bearden, making it 47-45 before Knight hit a pair of free throws to build the lead back to 4.
Heritage led 53-51 with just over a minute left when Walsh missed from behind the arc. Johnson was there for the Heritage rebound and a free throw after a Bearden foul to make it a 3-point game.
Bearden’s Geer made the front end of a one-and-one on the other end before the ensuing rebound bounced out of bounds off the grasp of a reaching Lady Mountaineer.
The following Bearden in-bound found Walsh open for the go-ahead 3 off the pick.
Heritage then turned it over and Farragut’s Holly Hagood made a free throw before the Lady Mountaineers had a chance to tie the game with just over five seconds left.
Thomas took the Heritage in-bound at half court and drove baseline, but her shot fell short as time expired and the horn sounded.
“She got fouled, there ain’t no doubt about it,” Howard said of the game’s final play. “I’ll watch the tape and I guarantee you it was a no-call and they should’ve called it.
“They called it all night down there, and they didn’t call it down here. Just a bad call.”
Regardless of the no-call, Heritage’s postseason run will continue with Monday’s 6 p.m. consolation game against cross-county rival William Blount, the tournament’s No. 4 seed, where the two teams will play for a third place finish in the district tournament and seeding in the region tournament.
Heritage, the No. 6 seed in the eight-team field, used a last-second shot to beat No. 7 Catholic in the district’s opening round before upsetting No. 3 Maryville with a 43-38 win in the quarterfinal round.
Howard said his team is still playing well at the right time.
“We’ve got plenty of opportunity to see (Bearden) again. If we take care of business, you want to finish third so you can play the second place team instead of the first place team over there (in the regional).
“It’s going to be a battle Monday night against William Blount, it always is. You’ve just got to bounce back.”