Heritage School girls hold off Holy Spirit to cap off unbeaten run in 1-AAA
by Doug Gorman
The biggest question mark first-year Heritage Lady Hawks basketball coach Derrick Clay had heading into Thursday’s GISA Region 1-AAA championship with Holy Spirit was could his team beat the Lady Cougars for the third time this season.
His fears were put to rest with a heart pounding 37-33 win on a night when the Heritage led most of the way, but almost gave the game away in their own gym.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” Clay said. “It always is the third time you play a team.”
Heritage took a 31-21 lead into the final period, but nearly made it too close for comfort as Holy Spirit held the Lady Hawks to just two field goals and six points over the final eight minutes.
“We really went cold, but we did what we had to do to win the game,” Clay said.
Freshman Kara Groover’s basket early in the final quarter gave the Lady Hawks a 33-24 lead, but Holy Spirit closed out the game with a 9-4 run.
The Lady Cougars’ Selina Kelete cut the lead 34-33 before the Lady Hawks found a way to secure the victory from two players who had been quiet most of the night.
Abbie Farr’s only basket of the night with under a minute to go, lifted the lead back to 36-33.
Holy Spirit then missed a 3-point shot that could have tied the game.
Maggie Crosby then hit a free throw for her third point of the contest in the waning seconds to secure the Lady Hawks’ first region title since 2007 and just the second in the nearly 40-year history of the school.
Groover had the hot hand throughout the game for the Lady Hawks, finishing with 22 points.
The point guard scored the Lady Hawks first 11 points as the team led 9-6 at the end of the first quarter and pushed it to 20-13 at the break.
“We are like one big family,” she said. “We all play together, and that makes a difference.”
Groover hit two three-pointers in the contest, including one to open the third period to give Heritage a 27-18 lead.
“She is only a freshman, but she is our general out there, Clay said. She wants the ball.”
Lillie Smith was the second leading scorer for Heritage with four points.
The Lady Hawks have worn down teams with tough defense and it happened in the title game as they pulled down 31 rebounds, including 18 on the Lady Cougars end of the floor.
Senior Ansley Dieckmann led the Lady Hawks with five rebounds.
“This is exciting,” Dieckmann said. “I have been a part of this team for four years and winning a title has been one of our goals all along.”
Kelete made the difference in the fourth quarter for the Lady Cougars scoring eight of her team-leading 11 points in the final stanza.
Clay, who is also the defensive coordinator on the Hawks football team, wants to build a girls basketball tradition at Heritage.
“Winning the region title was our goal coming in,” he said. “This school doesn’t have many, but we want to change that.”
Five players from Heritage earned a spot on the All-Tournament team including Dieckmann, Crosby, Amanda Windom, Smith, and Groover.
The Lady Hawks now head to the GISA Class AAA Tournament in Macon as a No. 1 seed out of Region 1-AAA starting Wednesday against the No. 4 finisher from 2-AAA.
Lady Hawks 37, Lady Cougars 34
Holy Spirit 6 7 8 13—34
Heritage 9 11 11 6—37