High School Basketball

Defense doing the job for Heritage girls

by Doug Gorman

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Heritage School teammates Ruthie Powell (left) and Ansley Dieckmann (right) trap an opposing player deep inside her defensive zone during a varsity game earlier this season. 


There’s one thing that will never change about the game of high school basketball, if a squad can’t score, they are going to have trouble winning.

That’s why Heritage School Lady Hawks head coach Derrick Clay emphasizes defense first whenever his team hits the floor for a game.

“We feel like if we can hold a team under 35 points, we have a pretty good chance to win the game,” said Clay, who is also defensive coordinator for Heritage’s football team in the fall. “Several coaches have given me good advice along the way and have told me if you want to win in girls high school basketball, it starts with defense.”

Heritage is winning games with stout defense. It happened Wednesday night when Heritage rolled past The Weber School 51-7.

The victory improved Heritage’s record to 14-3 overall in GISA action and 4-0 in region play.

At first glance, some of Heritage’s victories might seem like a misprint, but they aren’t.

The Lady Hawks, who are currently ranked fifth in Class AAA, have made it very tough for opposing offenses this season, holding teams to under 35 points a game in nine of their 13 victories. More impressive is four of the victories have come with opponents scoring 10 or less points.

In its last three games, Heritage has only given up a combined 30 points, also beating the Atlanta Girls School 53-15 and Dominion Christian 42-8, holding the latter scoreless in the first half while taking a 24-0 lead.

Before the Christmas break, Heritage rolled past Calvary Christian 41-6 and Praise Academy 59-10.

“We are working as one unit,” said Lady Hawks post-player Amanda Windom. “That is one thing our coach has stressed since the beginning of the season. We just never quit working, even after we get a big lead.”

After spotting the Lady Rams a 2-0 lead in the opening minutes of the game, the Lady Hawks defense took over, building a 16-5 lead at the end of the first period. Heritage allowed The Weber School to one field goal the rest of the way, keeping their guests off the scoreboard in the second and fourth quarters.

The Lady Hawks forced 15 turnovers in the first half to put the game out of reach by the break with a 35-5 margin.

Heritage shorten the game early often creating the turnover with a full court press before the Lady Rams were able to get the ball over half court.

Sisters Kara and Karlee Groover handled the bulk of the scoring in the first half combing for 20 of the team’s 32 first half points.

Kara scored 10 straight points for the Lady Hawks prior to halftime, with the final basket putting her team ahead by 30.

Most of Kara’s points came when she came up with steals, which were quickly converted the turnover into easy baskets.

“We are able to get quick pressure on the ball and that has been working,” she said.

Windom has helped convert opposing team’s turnovers into baskets. In Wednesday’s victory, she scored all six of her points in the first quarter to help her squad jump out to its early 11-point lead.

Clay said he knew his team’s defense was going to be good when it beat Deerfield Windsor 45-42, but also held one of its All-State players to 10 points. When they met in the rematch — a 39-31 victory — the same player was held to just one point.

“Everybody is on the same page,” he said. “We are working together. I really think we have a chance to win the region and go all the way to the Final Four. That is something the team has never done before.”



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