Head coach: Brian Anderson
Region: 3-AAAAAA, No. 3 seed
First-round opponent: Lee County, Friday, 6:30 p.m.
Outlook: First-year head coach Brian Anderson hoped his team would play its best basketball of the season during last week’s Region 3-AAAAAA tournament at Evans.
Entering the tournament as region’s No. 3 seed, the Patriots defeated Greenbrier in the first round before losing to host Evans in the semifinals.
Looking to avoid entering the state tournament as a No. 4 seed and traveling to Valdosta in the first round of the playoffs, the Patriots were able to defeat Grovetown in the third-place game for the first time this season and have found themselves in a much more favorable quadrant of the bracket as a result.
The Patriots will travel to Region 1-AAAAAA runner-up Lee County in the first round Friday night, looking to start their run at a potential third straight trip to the Final Four.
Standing in Heritage’s way in the first round is a Lee County team that has played its fair share of quality opponents this season. The Trojans nearly defeated Class AAAA’s No. 2 ranked team, Americas-Sumter (27-0) in late November and defeated Class AAAA’s No. 10 ranked team McDonough in late December.
Lee County has also shown its fair share of struggles this season, most recently in their region championship loss to Valdosta 72-45, their worst loss of the season.
The Trojans are led by Region 1-AAAAAA Offensive Player of the Year M.J. Taylor, a 5-foot-8 guard averaging upwards of 13 points-per-game. Senior Nick Dixon and senior Damon Favors were first team all-region selections for the Trojans and both pose threats to score.
Lee County averages 58 points-per-game on offense, but is allowing just 53 points-per-game on defense.
If the Patriots hope to defeat the Trojans Friday night on the road, they will in all likelihood need big performances from standout juniors James White and RJ Noord.
White finished his regular season averaging 23.9 points-per-game and has scored 20 or more points in 22 of his 28 games this season. Noord is currently hovering just under the 20 points-per-game mark this season and has experience playing in hostile environments in the playoffs.
In Heritage’s 61-58 win over Grovetown last Saturday, the Patriots did so with White scoring a season-low 11 points and their third leading scorer, Courtney McBride away from the team.
Instead, the Patriots received big performances from the likes of Dash and Jalen Boston, who combined to score 20 points in the win. Darrion Dalton also chipped in with a big performance, scoring nine points while Christian Davis scored eight.
With Anderson’s bench feeling confident heading into Friday and with the return of McBride to the starting lineup, the Patriots looked primed to give the Trojans all they can handle in the first round of the state playoffs.
The Patriots will enter the game averaging 74 points-per-game on offense, 16 more than the Trojans.