By DOUG GORMAN
When it comes to GISA basketball, all roads lead to Mercer University in Macon and it seems a collision course between the Heritage Hawks and the Holy Spirit Cougars.
At least that’s the way the script has gone for the last two year with the two GISA region opponents plowing through the rest of the competition on the way to the state title game.
Unfortunately, for the Hawks, the Cougars have won the GISA title the last two years, including last season when Heritage fell in the championship game 57-51.
It was Heritage’s third loss of the season against Holy Spirit, but the most competitive game between the two schools.
Heritage finished the season with a 22-10 record and the championship finale turned out to be head coach Mark Lieberman’s finale game at the helm of the Hawks.
The Hawks played a competitive schedule on their way to the championship game beating several out of state opponents and also knocking off rival Trinity three times, including in the semifinals at the Final Four in what turned out to be the Lions’ final game in GISA.
In addition to Lieberman coaching his final game, seniors Anthony Williams and Jake Canter also played in their final contests.
Among the Hawks’ victories, they also beat GHSA opponents Creekside and Shiloh during the regular season.
For a time in the championship game against the Cougars, Heritage appeared to be in complete control.
The Hawks were on fire from 3-point range, hitting five of the long-range bombs in the first quarter and nine for the game.
Heritage used the fast start to take a 17-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the Cougars regrouped and outscored the Hawks 17-5 in the second half to take a 26-22 lead at the break.
Canter had the hot hand early for Heritage with his ability to hit shots behind the arc in the first quarter.
I just can’t describe how great it is to play with these guys,” Canter said after the game. “These guys have been my life these past three years. Nobody works harder than us.”
Canter finished with 21 points.
Then junior Lance Terry led the way for the Hawks with his own strong showing finishing the game with 24 points.
Terry had an impressive night from the free throw line, sinking 11 of 12 points.
The Hawks made a little run in the third quarter, tying the game on a basket from Canter at 30-all, but that was as close as Heritage could get.
Lieberman, who didn’t announce his resignation for a couple more weeks after the season, was disappointed for his players.
“I hate to see the heartbreak in our guys. I wanted them to feel what it’s like to win their last game,” Lieberman said. “These guys have put in the work. So it’s so tough to see them go through that.”
When Lieberman stepped down, the Hawks turned the coaching duties over to assistant coach Joab Jerome.
Jerome, who played for a state title when he was in high school at Wheeler, has the Hawks on the fast track to getting back to Macon. The Hawks have started the 2018-19 season with a 7-3 record.