Heritage Comes Up Just Short in Quest For WHC Tourney Title 2-22-14
Cougars Can’t Hold On to 4th Quarter Lead In Title Game
by David Grindstaff
Facing an Avery County team which had not been beaten in Western Highlands Conference play during the regular season in the tournament championship game at Hendersonville High’s, the Mountain Heritage Cougars knew that they would have to play one of their best games of the year to take down the Vikings.
For most of four quarters in Pardue Gym Friday night Mountain Heritage did just that. The Cougars led the Vikings 22-19 going into the 4th quarter following an Avery Austin three pointer to end the third quarter. But the regular season champion Vikings exploded for 27 points in the final eight minutes, winning the game with key shots at the free throw line in the final minutes.
The Cougars, a program which prides itself on being fast a furious on the defensive end of the basketball court, held the Vikings in check in the first half as both teams struggled to find their rhythm offensively in the low scoring affair.
After falling behind 8-0 in the opening stanza, the Cougars saw the Vikings (22-4) led only 14-10 at the half. Heritage then outscored the top seed 12-5 in the third quarter to garb the lead heading down the stretch.
But the Vikings stood firm and scored more points in the final eight minutes than they did in the previous twenty-four, led by the scoring of tourney MVP Chance Watson, who finished with 11 points for 1-A Avery County.
Grant Buckner and Avery Austin, who have led the team in scoring throughout the season, both scored 12 points apiece to pace the #2 seed Cougars (11-12).
Heritage earned a shot at the title with a 59-37 drubbing of Polk County in the tournament’s semi-final round.
Avery Austin, a junior, again led the Cougar scoring. He netted 22 points while senior Grant Buckner (16) and sophomore Job Kennedy (12) also scored in double figures for Heritage in the victory over the Wolverines (7-16).
The Cougars opened the tournament with a home win over Hendersonville (7-16) on Monday in Burnsville. Avery Austin erupted for a 37 points against the Bearcat defense to lead the Heritage scoring while Grant Buckner added 17. Both were named to the WHC All-Tournament team. Also making the boys squad were Avery’s Chance Watson, James Stewart and Jacob Waldroop, Hendersonvill’s Colton Hall, Polk Couny’s Anthony Carson, Mitchell’s Sam McKinney, Owen’s Michael Pomeroy and Madison’s Daniel Nash.
In spite of the loss the Cougars played host to West Caldwell (16-6) in the opening round of the NCHSAA 2-A tournament which got underway Monday.