Heritage School boys basketball coach Joab Jerome admits the Hawks have bullseyes stitched across their backs every time they take the floor.
That’s just part of the deal when you are the defending Georgia Independent School Association Class 3A state champs.
It’s also something the Hawks have become good at handling this season as they seek to repeat as state champions,
At Wednesday night’s home game, the Hawks opened the first round of the GISA tournament with an easy 64-26 victory against Pinewood Christian.
The Hawks jumped out to a 9-0 lead early in the first quarter and never looked back.
“We talk about it all the time,” Jerome said. “We don’t want to play from behind, and we want to get out to fast starts.”
Senior Ebenezer Dowuona, closed out his last game ever inside the Heritage Center with a dominating performance.
The North Carolina State-bound center made a loud statement early in the game, driving to the basket, banking the shot of the glass, drawing the foul and converting the free throw for a 3-0 lead.
Dowuona led the Hawks with 17 points. All of the senior’s points came in the first three quarters.
Most of the Hawks’ starting lineup watched from the bench in the final quarter after they built a commanding lead.
Four players got into the scoring act for the Hawks in the first quarter, including Connor Thomas, who drained a 3-pointer.
Dowuona kept the offensive spark going for the Hawks with back-to-back dunks in the opening quarter.
Heritage used its momentum to jump out to a 20-5 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Hawks increased the margin to 39-14 at the break.
Heritage’s Ju’wel Wilson connected on two 3-pointers in the second quarter and Maclean Hoekwater one.
Wilson finished with 11 points.
Dowuona’s third dunk of the game increased the Hawks’ lead to 33-11.
The Hawks controlled both ends of the court throughout the night and finished with key offensive and defensive rebounds.
Heritage used tenacious defense, especially in the third quarter, as it outscored Pinewood 15-2.
Pinewood’s only points in the third quarter came with 2:25 left when Nathan Scott hit both of his free throw attempts.
Heritage continued to light up its side of the scoreboard with its outside shooting.
The Hawks finished with five 3-point shots in the second half.
Wilson, Thompson and Grant Evans converted the long-range shots in the third quarter, and Ellis Coggin and Jim Rhodes made one each in the final period.
Heritage moves into the second round of the GISA tournament Saturday against Bethlehem Christian.
Tip off is set for 3 p.m. at Tatnall Square in Macon.
Bethlehem advanced with a 52-49 win against Southland Academy in the first game Wednesday night at the Heritage Center.
Jerome likes the confidence his team is showing as it moves into the postseason.
“We don’t have the same team as last year, but everybody knows what's at stake.