Published Friday, January 11, 2013
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
Count head coach Rusty Evans among those who might not have expected The Heritage School’s boys basketball team to take quite the same page from its football successes when they took the court this season.
Not that he hasn’t seen tremendous progress in his team through nearly a dozen games so far to merit his team’s unbeaten record. At 11-0 heading into tonight’s trip to Region 1-AAA foe Dominion Christian, these Hawks are making just as big a name for themselves in a school year that’s already included a trip to the GISA Class AAA football finals.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” said Evans. “We had two big returning players back but we also had a lot of inexperience heading into the season. We’ve had a lot of younger players that we weren’t quite sure about, step up for us.”
Heritage School opened the football season at 8-0 and the basketball team — made up of at least six players from that lineup — marched right past that mark following a six-point win over Griffin Christian to open their annual Christmas tournament. Only two victories so far have been among single digits, with the Hawks average margin of victory at 21 points over the first 11 games.
What’s been even more satisfying is the number of contributors. In its three victories against Region 1-AAA opponents so far, Heritage School had 11 scorers in a 23-point win over Trinity Christian, 14 in a 24-point effort over The Weber School and 13 in the team’s latest region win over Holy Spirit.
“I recently took out my scorebooks from the last three years and showed the guys the difference,” Evans said. “No team has had 12 guys scoring every night. I’m trying to let that be a motivating factor for them.”
A quick transition from last year’s football championship game on Nov. 30 began with a full lineup pulling off three-point win over Flint River on a buzzer-beater by freshman wide-receiver Spencer Perry, who has been a consistent double-digit scorer. He had 16 points in an 82-58 win over Weber (7-4, 2-1) and a team-high 17 against Holy Spirit (2-6, 0-2).
“The last three games, Spencer’s had times where he’s taken over,” Evans said of the freshman.
But there’s also been plenty of balance. Senior center Garrett Jones has continued to cause problems inside as one of the team’s major returning players. The 6-foot-5 standout, who also contributed to the Hawks’ football success, had team highs of 16 points against Trinity Christian on Dec. 14 and 18 against Weber last Thursday in region play.
“I think teams knew he was a threat inside [coming into the season],” said Evans of Jones. “Garrett’s been our most consistent player so far.”
Playing alongside younger brother Cole, the two have been among the team’s leading rebounders with Brian McKinney, who has also been one of Heritage School's top JV standouts. The Jones brothers combined for 19 rebounds against Holy Spirit, 12 of which by Cole.
Others like senior Cooper Martin are finding key roles in the lineup and Caleb Vaughn has been equally solid in his role as the team’s starting point guard.
A solid summer schedule has certainly helped Heritage get off to the good start. But the road to remaining unbeaten will get a bit tougher over the next couple of weeks starting with tonight’s trip to Dominion (9-3, 1-1). The Hawks are currently battling with both Dominion and Loganville Christian (7-0, 3-0) for a potential No. 1 seed in the region tournament.
Heritage School plays Loganville twice over a nine-day span between late January and early February.
“They’re both very guard oriented,” said Evans of Dominion and Loganville. “They each have two guys who can score and they play seven or eight (deep).”
Heritage School, which will host Flint River on Saturday and Skipstone on Tuesday, also has a chance to open its new gymnasium unbeaten. The school is currently awaiting a certificate of occupancy with the hopes of opening its facility next Friday against county rival Trinity Christian.