CONYERS -- Holding a slim one-point lead at halftime, the Heritage girls basketball team was in dire need of some breathing room, something they got and then some in the second half.
With the game knotted at 27-all in the opening minutes of the third quarter, Heritage out-scored the Gladiators 18-4 in the final seven minutes of the quarter and built a fourth-quarter lead that proved to be too much to overcome in a 55-46 win for the Patriots.
Junior standout Sade Harrell finished with a team-high 23 points and 12 rebounds while Kristyn Goshay chipped in with 13 points and two steals in the victory.
Patriots head coach Eric Spivey credited his team’s switch from man-to-man to zone defense in the third quarter in holding the Gladiators to only five points and slowing down senior standout Mikaylyn Glover, who entered halftime with 23 points.
“Some of our younger ladies are not accustomed to the type of man-to-man that we want to play,” Spivey said. “We had to go to our zone defense and that kind of helped us out a little bit with (Glover). She was really explosive in that first half and we had to try and find a way to slow her down.”
Glover scored four of the Gladiators’ five points in the third quarter, but did all of her scoring from the free throw line. The Patriots held the senior to 0 of 3 shooting in the quarter and forced her to turn the ball over three times.
On the offensive end, the Patriots opened up an 11-point lead, 38-27 when Harrell dished off to a wide-open Morgan Snipes for a three-pointer with 3:30 remaining in the third.
After entering the break with 12 points, Harrell scored five more points in the third and ended the quarter with another assist, this time to freshman Nikki Roland, who buried a three-pointer at the buzzer to extend the lead to 45-31.
Holding a comfortable 47-31 lead early in the fourth thanks to a Harrell jumper, the Patriots went cold on the offense end. Glover continued to fire shots for the Gladiators and eventually caught fire before bringing her team back to within single digits late in the game.
With the Heritage lead cut to six points, 50-44 on a Glover floater, the Patriots were able to ice the game down the stretch on five made free throws.
Glover finished the game with 39 points on 11 made shots and was responsible for all but seven Gladiator points on the night.
The Patriots were held to only eight points in the fourth, five of which came in the final 39 seconds of the quarter.
“I think our girls got a little bit complacent and got comfortable because we had a lead,” Spivey said. “We’ve got to have a killer mentality and we don’t have that yet. We’re working on being able to finish games strong the way we should. Hopefully by the time we hit region play we will be at that point.”