Saturday, January 13, 2018 10:40 pm
Heritage 45, South Adams 36
Heritage boys claim 1st ACAC championship since '07
AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette
BERNE – Relentless persistence helped Heritage to its first ACAC tournament championship since 2007 with a 45-36 win over Jay County at South Adams on Saturday.
Heritage (10-1) fell to Woodlan in last year's tournament championship but shared a piece of the regular season title with the Warriors.
"It feels great," Heritage coach Barry Singrey said. "A lot of these guys have been around for two or three years, really being dedicated, working hard and last year we got a piece of the regular season and with this group of seniors, we really wanted to go out and try and get another championship. I'm happy that they got that done."
This year, the Patriots picked up the championship that eluded them a year ago.
"We always say the tournament is our first season, conference is our second season and sectional is our third season," Heritage senior and tournament Most Valuable Player Abram Beard said. "First season down, we still have a lot of good conference opponents to play against and we need to get wins in those. We need to stay focused but we're going to enjoy this tonight."
Jay County (7-6) led 29-26 heading into the fourth quarter but offensive adjustments from Heritage meant more opportunities to get to the free-throw line.
"(Jay County is) very physical on the defensive end," Singrey said. "Normally, we're pretty good on our screening and cutting actions, and they really took a lot away. We had to make some adjustments and go more for that dribble-drive stuff. We hit some shots, that was the big difference in the fourth quarter.
"We know if we're ahead late in the game, we have to take care of the ball; you have to get to the free-throw line and the last step is knocking them down and they did a great job tonight."
Heritage hit 14 of 16 shots from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, eight coming from Jarrett Kiess, who finished with a game-high 20 points.
"Watching him in practice, I know he can shoot and he's always had free throws as a strength," Beard said. "So I really tried to make sure I got him the ball because I knew he could shoot.
"(I told the guys) just relax. We practice free throws all the time with the same situation, don't let the crowd get to you, you got it and just put it in and get a stop."
Heritage led 14-13 at the half but neither team led by more than four points until the Heritage's fourth-quarter free-throw frenzy.
Jay County got up by four on two occasions, 20-16 with 6:20 left in the second and 27-23 with 3:36 left in the third.
"When we were talking about Jay County, we always talk about how fundamental they are," Beard said. "We all knew we had to be prepared mentally because they were going to bring the best of their ability, as they always do. Jay County's always been a tough opponent for us."