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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, January 09, 2018 1:00 am

Heritage looks for redemption in first round

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

ACAC Tournament

6 p.m. (girls) / 7:30 p.m. (boys)

Today

Southern Wells at Jay County

Bluffton at South Adams

Woodlan at Heritage

Friday

Semifinals

Saturday

Championship at South Adams

The 95th boys basketball ACAC Tournament begins today where it left off in 2017: Woodlan vs. Heritage.

The teams faced off in the championship game with the Warriors emerging with a 35-32 win for the program's 12th tournament title.

“They're rivals of ours,” Warriors coach Dave Randall said. “My kids know all their kids and going over there, what I've seen of Heritage, I've seen about three of their games, they're very impressive. They don't beat themselves.

“From our end, we're going to have to stay locked in. Playing teams like Heritage is challenging physically but it's challenging mentally, too. The way they play, if you get down six points, it's like you're down 12. We're talking about things like valuing possessions, talking, and there will be times where we'll be on defense for 45 seconds. It's hard for anyone.”

The Warriors are 3-4 with just three returnees with varsity experience. Randall has seen glimpses of good things after wins over Angola (61-59, Dec. 5), Adams Central (61-57, Dec. 15) and Bluffton (52-51, Saturday).

“I still think we're still finding out who we are. I've seen times where we've looked really good and I've seen times where we didn't,” Randall said. “Churubusco made us look awful last week. We went up to Fremont, they knocked us off and Bellmont. We had a win up at Angola – it's a difficult place to win. We've gone to Bluffton.

“We're not anxious to give back that trophy we won last year. A lot of the kids who are playing this year, were on the bench or JV, they saw it happen and saw how exciting it was. I'm hoping Saturday night (the win over Bluffton), will spring us into that. Heritage wants it just as badly. Last year is a powerful motivator for them.”

The Patriots have a 7-1 record for the first time since the 1998-99 season under Gary Merrell. The only loss this season was a 39-38 setback against Leo on Dec. 1.

Heritage last won the ACAC Tournament during the 2006-07 season under coach David Parker, a 36-31 win over Bluffton.

Barry Singrey is in his third season at the head of the program and attributes the success to the players who have committed themselves to offseason work two years ago.

“There's been a lot of guys that have put in a lot of work and a lot of effort along with assistant coaches that have supported me,” Singrey said. “It's easy to see when you start winning some games. We started making strides two summers ago when kids were committed to the offseason programs.

“I just think they've bought into the identity that Heritage needs to have to be successful,” he said. “Offensively, we share the ball fairly well, we take care of the ball. That's not something we can't take for granted. Defensively, we want to continue the identity we have to contain the ball, contest shots, rebound, not give up anything in transition.

“When we play well, those have been areas we've gotten good at it. We need to maintain and focus on all the time for us to be successful.”

areichel@jg.net