Cougars carry momentum into WHC Tournament this weekThe 2012-2013 Western Highlands Conference Basketball Tournament begins this week in Ledger where the split 1A/2A league’s eight teams will gather to fight it out one last time and determine conference champions.
The #2 seed Lady Cougar varsity will face #7 seed Thomas Jefferson in a first round game at 7:00 Monday night at Mitchell High with the semifinals being played on Thursday night.
Heritage (20-2, 12-2 WHC) enters the tournament as the reigning champion and wound up with a share of the WHC regular season title with Avery County after knocking off Madison (11-11, 6-8) in the season finale last Tuesday night in Marshall.
Avery County (12-2 WHC) fell in double overtime to Mitchell in their final regular season game to allow Heritage to grab a share of the crown.
At Madison the two rivals traded punches in the first quarter as the lead changed hands four times in the first eight minutes with Heritage leading by one following a buzzer beater three pointer by Nyssa Freeman.
In the second quarter the Lady Cougars began to pull away behind the three- point shooting of Freeman and Kaylon Johnson and the strong inside play of Samm Chandler, Destiny Elkins and Abby Bailey. Heritage led by eight points at the intermission and the Lady Cougars traded baskets with the Patriots in the third quarter to maintain a seven point working margin heading into the final stanza.
Two minutes into the 4th quarter, Nyssa Freeman’s second three pointer of the game gave Heritage its biggest lead of the night of 13 points and the Lady Cougars were able to hang on for a 70-59 victory with some clutch shooting at the free throw line down the stretch.
Samm Chandler was all over the court and led the team with 28 points with some tough work around the basket while Destiny Elkins crashed the boards with vengeance and scored 17 points and Nyssa Freeman controlled the offense and pitched in 16 points from the point.
A win by the Lady Cougars in their first round tournament game on Monday would send them into a semifinal match up against the winner between #3 seed Owen and #6 seed Polk County. That game would be played at 7:00 pm on Thursday. Avery County received the top seed in the varsity girl’s tournament after beating Heritage twice during the regular season.
The Cougar varsity boys are the #2 seed in the WHC tournament as well after finishing 11-3 in league play following a 63-52 win at Madison.
Heritage will take on #7 Mitchell (1-13 WHC) in a first round game on Tuesday night. Tipoff is at 7 pm. A win in the first round would pit them against the winner of another first round match-up between #3 Madison and #6 Owen in a contest scheduled for 8:30 on Thursday night.
The Cougars hit their first six shots from the floor and bolted to a 13-0 lead over the Patriots in Marshall as part of a 20-8 first quarter run by Heritage.
The teams traded baskets in the second quarter and Madison played catch-up the entire second half to no avail.
Will Buckner provided the inside punch with 17 points and a number of blocked shots while guards Grant Buckner (13 points) and Tim Hensley (10 points) made the tough outside shots for the Cougars in the 11 point win. Bob Taylor and Brandon Brown chipped in seven points apiece in the regular season finale.
By David Grindstaff