Heritage Academy’s Josh Neal attempts a shot Wednesday in his team’s 50-34 victory against Marshall Academy in the second round of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Overall State tournament at Mississippi College in Clinton. Photo by: Bob Smith/Special to The Dispatch
March 1, 2018 10:59:51 AM
CLINTON -- The Heritage Academy boys basketball team spent almost the entire 10 minutes of halftime in the locker room after falling behind Marshall Academy 21-19 Wednesday in the second round of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Overall State tournament at Mississippi College's A. E. Wood Coliseum.
"We weren't very good in the first half," Heritage Academy coach Russ Whiteside. "We came out sluggish. Maybe it was from the quick turnaround from last night (a 70-55 victory against Simpson Academy) until this afternoon. Our intensity level wasn't very high. We weren't very good on the offensive end."
That all changed in the second half.
Two free throws by Dontae Gray tied the score, two more by Josh Neal put Heritage Academy ahead to stay, and Carter Putt and Neal followed with 3-pointers. Heritage Academy also held Marshall Academy scoreless for more than six minutes and used a 20-2 third quarter to pull away for a 50-34 victory.
Heritage Academy (30-10) will take on two-time reigning overall champion Madison-Ridgeland Academy, a 61-41 winner against Magnolia Heights on Wednesday, at 7:15 p.m. in the semifinals. The winner of that game will advance to the title game at 3 p.m. Saturday.
"We just weren't gone to lose, We refused to lose," said Gray, one of Heritage Academy's senior captains. "We knew we were better than what we were in the first half, so we had to go out and show who we are in the second half."
Heritage was 10-for-16 from the field in the second half to finish at 50 percent (18-for-36).
"I didn't turn anything around. They (his players) turned it around," said Whiteside, who added that the first half was "kind of a wake up call to realize that maybe we overlooked the smaller school and now we have to go play them because they are really a good team."
Heritage Academy is a Class AAA school. Marshall is a Class AA school.
Gray said the Patriots "weren't moving in transition like we're supposed to" in the first half and that they "didn't feed our big man" (6-foot-6 sophomore center Eli Acker) as much as they needed to.
Acker led balanced scoring effort with 13 points. All of his points came on the inside as Heritage Academy outscored Marshall Academy 30-12 in the paint. Jared Long had 12 points and a game-high seven rebounds. Neal added 10 and Gray had eight.
Heritage Academy also had a 28-11 rebounding edge.
"I was proud of them responding, but if we play 16 minutes instead of 32 on Friday we're going to get our butts kicked," Whiteside said."
MRA (32-5) has won nine Overall titles in the last 13 years. MRA, the Class AAAA, Division I champion, beat Heritage Academy, the Class AAA champion, in the regular season.
"They're a really good team. They're talented," Whiteside said. "They have size. They have quickness. They have guys who can shoot the ball. Coach (Richard) Duease does a great job with them. They are well coached. It's going to take a really good game from us. We have to limit the turnovers. We have to be stronger with the basketball and we have to block out and rebound."
Said Gray, "We have to play all 32 minutes. We can't play just one half."
Everette Jones led Marshall Academy (25-7) with nine points.
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