Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
WAKE FOREST - Heritage's boys basketball team pulled away near the end to take down conference leader Wakefield 56-39 at home Tuesday.
The Huskies and Wolverines battled back and forth with each other all night. Wakefield never trailed by double digits until the second half and then Heritage outlasted their rivals to win the crucial NAC 6 conference match-up.
"Our rebounding was really big tonight," Heritage head coach Tilden Brill said. "Kaleb Hedgepath came in and did a phenomenal job with eight rebounds. His big body neutralized Wakefield's forwards. We finally started attacking the basket."
Wakefield held a slight edge in the beginning with a 10-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. In the second period, Heritage pulled off a 13-5 run to go ahead 22-15. Then the Wolverines cut the deficit to 24-20 by halftime.
In the third quarter, Heritage took their biggest lead of the night at 36-25. Wakefield added five more points to make it a 36-30 game at the end of the period.
Things opened up offensively for Heritage in the fourth quarter. The Huskies dropped 20 points in the period, while Wakefield only mustered nine. Heritage held back Wakefield to win 56-39.
"We wanted to dictate the tempo against Wakefield," Brill said. "We worked on our transition game. That helped us force Wakefield to limit them to one shot."
Offensively, Heritage was led by Lucas Taylor with 24 points and Redford Dunton with 17 points. Brill had high praise for Taylor, who is currently averaging 23 points a game this season.
"It's awesome to see Lucas' success," Brill said. "He's one of the loudest guys in terms of communicating at practice. He has worked really hard on his game. It's good to see him bear the fruit of his labor."
Out on the court, Taylor find buckets from both inside and outside. He had a couple of big dunks while also knocking down some clutch 3-pointers.
"When we started driving to the basket, we were able to get Wakefield's defense out of position," Taylor said. "We were finally able to get easy lay-ups to the basket."
Taylor went on to say that the key to the game was having better endurance and stamina than Wakefield's players. Their conditioning proved to be the difference maker in the victory.
"This game was a big test for us physically," Taylor said. "We've been running a lot in practice. We didn't go down in the fourth quarter. Our identity is to run the floor. By the fourth quarter, we wore Wakefield down and they didn't have anything left to give."
Wakefield head coach Garrett Stevens also agreed that fatigue played a major factor in the result.
"We got tired in that fourth quarter," Stevens said. "Our guys battled, but Lucas found open shots and knocked them down. We lost focus once we got tired and Heritage took advantage with some big shots."
With the loss, Wakefield dropped to 9-5 overall and 1-1 in NAC 6 conference play. It was also Wakefield's first loss on the road this season.
"The biggest thing we need to work on is our effort and intensity," Stevens said. "We showed that in the first three quarters. If we can do that throughout all of conference play, that would great. We showed a great defensive effort holding Heritage to less than 60 points. We just have to find a way to put the ball in the basket."
As for Heritage, the win improved them to 7-6 overall and 2-0 in NAC 6 conference play. Taylor said getting revenge on the team who beat them out for the conference championship last year was a sweet moment.
"This win means a lot to us," Taylor said. "Last year, they beat us for the conference title. We wanted to regain our title, so that's how we treated this game. We're going to get our title back the next time we play them."
Wakefield will play Corinth Holders Friday Jan. 17 at home at 7:30 p.m. Heritage will take on Knightdale on the road at the same date and time.
"Wakefield won the NAC 6 last year, so if beating them tonight is not enough motivation for our guys, then there's no place for it," Brill said.