GARRETT – Heritage set up a winner-take-all showdown for the ACAC championship in eight days with a 47-40 win at Garrett on Thursday.
The Patriots outscored the Railroaders 16-7 in the fourth quarter to finally steady a back-and-forth game.
Heritage trailed 38-34 early in the fourth quarter as Garrett finished a 13-3 run that started in the third.
Heritage didn’t stay down for long, however, going on a 13-2 run to end the game.
Jacque Jacquay had five points in the fourth, and Aaron Horne connected on 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch.
At that point, we just played really good defense, made our free throws at the end and just finished, Horne said.
Heritage (7-7, 5-1 ACAC) and ACAC tournament champion Woodlan (12-5, 5-1) are tied atop the league regular-season standings with one game left – Heritage at Woodlan on Feb. 22.
We talked at the beginning of the year, and we told our team that our conference was pretty even, Heritage coach Brad Kiess said. We have spent a lot of time focusing on winning the conference. It has been a big deal for us all year long.
It’s going to be a big chore for us (against Woodlan), but I am just glad we have got to that point to compete with them and see what we can do.
The Patriots have won four of their last five games.
We are looking strong now, Horne said. I am planning on beating Woodlan because I know we can stop them.
Heritage got out to a 16-6 lead after the first, only to see Garrett win the second 17-7 to force a tie at 23 by halftime.
The Railroaders outscored the Patriots 10-8 in the third to take a slim 33-31 advantage heading into the fourth.
The last five minutes, we just played really well defensively, Kiess said of the fourth. We didn’t let them score for the last nine possessions (until a final last-second Garrett basket).
Some of the times we haven’t made those plays this year. We are young and have just gotten better and better. At the beginning of the year, I never would have thought we would be in this position.
The Patriots were led by the 13 points from Mark Saalfrank, and four players – Jacquay, Horne, Branson Dossen and Bradley Scott – scored seven points.
Justin McCoy led Garrett (11-5, 4-2) with 16 points, but he scored only five in the second half.
McCoy, who leads northeast Indiana with 21.2 points per game, made only 2 of 11 from the field in the second half.
We talked about playing better defense on McCoy, Horne said. You basically have to face guard him. He is a great shooter, and you have to stay in front of him at all times.