January 23, 2017 11:07:09 PM
Heritage Academy boys' basketball senior point guard Dalton Ford hit the floor hard twice in the fourth quarter.
But each time he hopped right up and strode to the free throw line. If he was hurting, he didn't show any pain. He had one thing on his mind: sinking the free throws to help his team win.
Ford made five free throws down the stretch -- four after pulling himself up off the floor -- to help Heritage Academy beat Columbus Christian Academy 60-59 Monday night at home.
"It was a rough game and both teams played really hard," said Ford who scored a game-high 16 points. "I was just trying to help my team get a win and I was focused on making that free throw right there."
Columbus Christian (16-8) took a 59-58 lead after R.J. Deloach made a free throw and DaKameron Mitchell got a steal and a layup. With under a minute remaining, Ford brought the ball up the floor and shouts of, "Don't foul," could be heard from the stands.
But Ford ran into a Columbus Christian player and fell to the ground. The referee immediately blew his whistle and called the foul.
Ford made both free throws with under 10 seconds left to seal the win. The Rams had a chance to win the in the final seconds, but Dawson Shaw turned the ball over as he tried to dribble behind his back before cutting into the lane.
Ford was fouled by Shaw and he tumbled hard to the floor right in front of the Heritage Academy student section. They cheered him on and Ford made both free throws to break a tie and give the Patriots (12-3) a 58-56 lead.
"He's a super tough kid, a great senior leader and does so much for this team running the show on the floor," Heritage Academy boys' coach Russ Whiteside said. "I can't say enough about his effort and his senior leadership throughout the year."
The Patriots led 6-5 early in the first quarter, but the Rams took over and led 16-11 after the first quarter. The Rams outscored the Patriots 13-8 in the second quarter and took a 10-point lead (29-19) into the locker room at halftime.
The Patriots came out of the locker room determined and outscored the Rams 20-10 in the third quarter to tie the game at 39 after three quarters.
"I thought we played hard in the first half. I did not think we executed very well offensively and we executed a little better in the second half and played with a lot of heart," Whiteside said. "We responded really well from being down 10. It could have gone the other way, but we fought back and I was really proud of them for that."
Heritage Academy used a 12-0 run spanning the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter to take a 44-39 lead. But Shaw made back-to-back 3-pointers to give Columbus Christian a 45-44 lead.
The teams traded baskets down the stretch, but Ford's tenacity at the free throw line proved to be the difference.
"Our team never gives up, they never give in and they showed a lot of fight. That's all due to our coach. He's pushing us every day and we just never quit," Ford said. "We just tried to stay cool, calm and collective."
Tynder Swedenburg scored 11 points and Donte Gray scored all 10 of his points in the second half for Heritage Academy. Deloach and Mitchell scored 13 each for Columbus Christian Academy.
The Rams had two players foul out (Deloach and Kimarri Whitfield) in the fourth quarter.
"We just had too many guys in foul trouble," Columbus Christian Academy coach Greg Watkins said. "We put them on the line and they probably won it at the free throw line.
"It's disappointing. Our guys played hard the whole game. I'm just proud of the guys. It's not the end of the world for us."
n Heritage Academy girls 44, Columbus Christian Academy 33: The Lady Patriots overcame a slow start to down the Lady Rams in the first game.
Heritage Academy led 8-3 after the first quarter, but stretched that lead to 24-11 at halftime after outscoring Columbus Christian 16-8 in the second quarter. The Lady Patriots used a 12-0 run in the second quarter to give themselves a cushion.
The Lady Rams outscored the Lady Patriots 22-20 in the second half to make it interesting.
"Any win for us is a good win," Heritage Academy girls' coach Yandell Harris said. "I'm just glad the girls got a win. Wins have sometimes this year been hard to come by. We've won two in a row now and we really need to build some momentum.
"I don't think we played well in some spots and at spots we did play well."
Allie Kerby scored 13 points, while Nicole Dishongh scored 12 points for the Lady Patriots. CeCe Harper scored 13 points to lead the Lady Rams.
Heritage Academy plays at Starkville Academy today, while Columbus Christian Academy travels to West Point to take on Oak Hill Academy Thursday.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait
Ben Wait reports on Mississippi State University sports for The Dispatch.