CONYERS -- Holding a slim three-point lead with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, one could only think if another heartbreaking loss in the first round of the state playoffs was on the horizon for Heritage.
After losing in the first round of the playoffs in each of the past three seasons - all three coming on their home court - junior Kristyn Goshay wasn’t about to make it four in a row.
Goshay stepped up to the free throw line seven times in the final two minutes and buried six of them to help send the Patriots into the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history with a 57-49 win.
“Those are free shots, so I had to make those,” Goshay said. “We practice them so much in practice and I knew I had it. No pressure.
“I’ve been here the past two years where we came really, really close and kind of choked a little bit. This year, we finally pulled it off.”
All second-year head coach Eric Spivey could do after securing the victory was breathe out a sigh of relief.
“The feeling is unbelievable for us to get this win here,” Spivey said. “Being at home, we only had two losses here this year. I stressed to the girls that we didn’t want another loss. Under the conditions, it’s just a great win. A tough win for our girls.”
Goshay ended her night with a game-high 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds to six assists and four steals. Sade Harrell scored 14 points in the win while freshman Jaliyah Weekes scored eight and stole five passes.
The Patriots (18-10) led by as many as 12 points in the first half when Harrell connected on an and-1 with five seconds remaining in the second quarter. A pair of free throws from Coffee with one second left trimmed their halftime lead to 30-20.
Coffee began the third quarter on a 7-0 run to trim the Heritage lead to three. The Patriots’ first basket of the second half didn’t come until sophomore Zaria Gillespie scored with 4:43 left in the third quarter.
Heritage responded with an 11-5 run, capped off by a pair of Goshay free throws with 1:35 remaining in the quarter to help give her team some breathing room, 41-34 heading into the fourth.
Leading 44-36 with 5:20 remaining, the Trojans mustered up one final run and trimmed the Patriots’ lead to three, 46-43 with 2:32 left in the game.
With the three-man referee crew not paying the hosts any favors down the stretch, the Patriots were able to thwart Coffee’s comeback attempt and ice the game down the stretch at the free throw line.
Heritage knocked down 12 free throws in the fourth quarter while Coffee missed eight of their 12 attempts.
“That was huge,” Spivey said of his team's free throws. “We felt like we should have gotten to the line a little bit more, but that was huge. That’s something that we’ve been stressing the whole season and to see it come through for us in this particular game was great. I hope they understand how important free throws are.”
Spivey credited his team for never surrendering the lead in the second half despite two comeback attempts from Coffee.
“Our girls were stingy on defense at times,” Spivey said. “We had to watch some of the fouls that we made. We were in foul trouble, so we had to go with our zone. Once we adjusted and went back to our man-to-man, I think that’s when we controlled the game down the stretch and kept them from taking the lead from us.”
“The best thing for us is that we have the opportunity to move on,” Spivey said. “We know it’s not done. Our season is not over, so we just have to continue to play hard.”
The Patriots will travel to play Langston Hughes in the second round of the playoffs.