Heritage Varsity Teams Enter WHC Tournament Play 2-17-14
by David Grindstaff
The Western Highlands Conference Tournament begins Tuesday at Hendersonville with first round girl’s games beginning at 5 p.m.
The Lady Cougars (12-0 WHC) are the number one seed in the women’s tournament while the Avery Vikings (11-0) are the top seed on the men’s side. Both teams clinched regular season championships with wins last week.
At Madison in the regular season finale, the Lady Cougars had to fight off a very tough challenge from the Lady Patriots to earn their unbeaten mark in the league this season.
Heritage overcame a seven point first half deficit and battled hard in the 4th quarter to pull out a 53-44 victory in Marshall.
Madison worked the basketball into their post players to great effect in the first half, staying even with the Lady Cougars in the first quarter while outscoring Heritage 18-11 in the second.
The Lady Cougars amped up the pressure on defense to start the second half and by the end of the third quarter they had regained the lead 34-32 outscoring the Patriots 16-6 in the third.
The finals stanza was a tossup until Heritage pulled away at the foul line in the final two minutes with made free throws by Kendyl Neill, Abby Renfro, Nyssa Freeman and Destiny Elkins who hit all ten of her foul shots in the game and led the team with 14 points.
Heritage won despite shooting only 27 percent from the floor. They made up for the poor shooting from the field by making 18 of 23 free throws in the contest.
Madison on the other hand shot only seven foul shots in the game, making four while shooting 46 percent from the floor.
Elkins added 15 rebounds to her totals while Nyssa Freeman tossed in 13 points, and had five assist four steal. Abby Bailey chipped in 11 points, 11 rebounds and 2 steals and Kendyl Neill scored 9 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and dished out 2 assists.
Heritage limited the Lady Patriots to only four offensive put backs while out rebounded Madison 41-30 in the finale.
"Most of these girls have played together a long time and we are so proud of what they have been able to accomplish so far," Coach Shelton said of her record setting team.
"We have had different players step up and make big plays for us when we needed them this year and the way the that girls closed out the season over the past couple of weeks with wins over two of the top contenders in the conference says a lot about out team and the leadership we have on the court," Shelton said.
She added that her Lady Cougars were not finished yet and that they were going into the conference tournament this week with an eye on winning it.
"It is extremely hard to go all the way through the conference regular season and tournament undefeated and it will be a test for us to play two games back to back, if we can get by the semi-final round. But our girls are confident going in and want to finish strong as we head into the playoffs, Shelton said.
The Lady Cougars will receive a first round bye in the tournament and will face the winner of the first round game between Owen and Polk County in 4 p.m. semi-final game on Thursday at Hendersonville.
The Cougars may have secured the number two seed in the tournament with a heart stopping win over Madison in Marshall. They now wait on several games to be made up Monday night to see who they will play in their first round matchup.
Job Kennedy got a rebound and scored with just under three seconds remaining to give the Cougars an emotional 45-44 win over the Patriots in Marshall.
Heritage (7-5 WHC) overcame a six point deficit heading in to the 4th quarter and hung around till the end with the help of the scoring of Avery Austin, Grant Buckner, Alex Cash, Luke Antinori and Jared Sellers.
Madison bolted to an17-8 lead in the first quarter and maintained that nine point lead at the break before the Cougars cranked up the defensive pressure and got some open shots beginning in the third quarter.
Junior Avery Austin again led the team in scoring with 17 points and also grabbed 4 rebounds and dealt two assists while senior Grant Buckner tossed in 13 points and sophomore Job Kennedy finished with five points.
The first round of the boy’s tournament will be played on Wednesday beginning at 5 p.m. with the finals set for Friday with the girls championship starting at 6 and the boys game at 7:30 p.m.