If Heritage basketball coach Joab Jerome was worried about how his team would responded in its first-round GISA state playoff game Wednesday night, it was quickly put to rest with an easy 68-40 victory over visiting Deerfield-Windsor.
Heritage now moves on to the Elite 8 against Loganville Christian Saturday at 3 p.m. at Stratford Academy in Macon.
The win came a little less than a week after the Hawks' thrilling 80-79 overtime victory over longtime nemesis Holy Spirit in the Region 1-AAA title game after Kasen Jennings hit a 3-pointer at the buzze
Holy Spirit, with recent University of Georgia commitment, Anthony Edwards in the starting lineup, had knocked off Heritage 10 times in a row including in last year’s state title game.
“I thought they did a good job of moving on to this game,” Jerome said. “ I really didn’t have to tell them anything. They just had their heads into this game.”
Heritage, however dominated its performance against Deerfield to open this year’s GISA tournament.
The Hawks led 16-6 at the end of the first quarter and extended the lead to 36-17 at the break.
Heritage turned the game into both a 3-point shooting and dunk contest to take control of the visitors from Albany.
Lance Terry opened the game with a 3-point shot and Heritage never trailed in the contest.
After Deerfield cut the lead to 3-2, Terry stepped up and again drained a second 3-point shot.
The Hawks’ defense allowed Deerfield to hit just seven shots from the field in the first half.
Deerfield made one small run in the second quarter getting a pair of 3-point shots from Jordan Moser and Nick Dixon.
When Zaibrion Dye connected on a two-point shot, the Knights cut the lead to 23-14.
That was the last time Deerfield cut the lead to single digits.
Terry brought the Hawks back with three baskets in a row, all dunks.
Late in the quarter, Jennings had back-to-back baskets to increase the lead to the 36-17 halftime margin.
The Hawks increased the lead to 57-28 after three quarters.
Ebenezer Dowuona had two dunks in the third quarter and Jennings drilled a 3-pointer as part of the offensive fireworks.
It was the second time this year the Hawks have knocked off the Knights.
In the regular season meeting late last month, Heritage won the non-region game 55-36.
Heritage takes a 19-9 record into the contest with Loganville Christian.
Loganville advanced by beating Trinity Christian-Dublin 65-53 in the game prior to Heritage’s contest with Deerfield.
Three players finished in double figures for the Hawks with Terry leading the way with 21 points.
Jennings, fresh off his heroic performance against Holy Spirit, added 16 and Dowuona added 10.
Dixon finished 10 for Deerfield.
Although Jerome knows his team is on a collision course to maybe meet Holy Spirit again, he knows they can not overlook Loganville in Saturday’s second-round game.
“They really get after it on defense,” he said. “They fly to the glass and can really score off the turnovers.”