January 16, 2013 2:33:17 PM
A new look on defense is helping the Heritage Academy girls basketball team write the next chapter.
Stifling man-to-man defense was the key Tuesday night in the Lady Patriots' 53-23 victory against Immanuel Christian.
Heritage Academy dominated Immanuel Christian with a player-to-player defense, which is a new way of doing things from a traditional 2-3 zone.
"We've never really run man-to-man defense. It's always been a zone school," first-year Heritage Academy coach Chris Ball said. "It's hard for us to score, so we have to rely on our pressure defense."
Heritage Academy created turnovers that led to breakaway baskets. In the opening half, Heritage Academy built a 28-9 lead. Six of the Lady Rams' points came in the final two minutes.
Senior Megan Pole led the Lady Patriots with 12 points, including eight at the start of the second quarter. Pole said hard work at practice is helping the Lady Patriots turn the corner.
"We've been shooting a lot in practice, and I've been striving to make more points in games," Pole said. "We want to perfect our shots, so coach Ball has wanted us to come up to the gym more often to work on that."
Junior Shiloh Ellis was a huge part of the Lady Patriots' defense. She accounted for several steals that led to breakaway points.
"We are trying to hustle more," Ellis said. "We've been a zone team in the past, so we are trying to get use to the man-to-man style. At the beginning this was a tough transition, but now we have the hang of it."
The full-court press continued to be too much for the Lady Rams in the third quarter, as they scored only six points in eight minutes.
"We were more relaxed going into this game," Pole said. "But we knew we had to take it seriously and not lay down.
"These girls have heart and effort. This our second time to beat (Immanuel) by 25 points, and I was nervous we wouldn't play with a lot of effort and intensity. But every night we bring the same level of intensity, and down the stretch it will be tough to beat us."
Despite the 30-point victory margin, Ball found a few things his squad needs to address to become a more sound team.
"We want to get up and guard," Ball said. "We have to get our shooters open more. We had a few girls that didn't get much playing time tonight, which is good so they can rest their legs."
Heritage Academy (10-11) got off to a slow start to begin the season, but Ball said the team has had more success after it decided to buy into his system.
"We've won eight of our last nine, so we are streaking," Ball said. "We're playing hard."
Heritage Academy boys 64, Immanuel Christian 54
David Hardy had a team-high 19 points to help the Patriots (9-11) complete the sweep of the Rams.
"Defensively, we finally found some answers in the fourth quarter," Heritage Academy coach Gary Harris said. "That has been our problem all year. We really aren't good enough defensively to compete in Class AAA. It has gotten better, but we are not where we need to be on that end."
Immanuel Christian hit eight 3-pointers. The early success from long-range allowed the Rams to build a three-point halftime lead.
"(Immanuel's) K.C. Cunningham hit six threes in the game and finished with 32 points," Harris said. "We had no answers other than to hope he missed. For a stretch there, he was making all of his shots. He posed all kinds of defensive problems for us. Fortunately, we got some stops in the fourth quarter.
"David played his most complete game of the season. He was really good on both ends of the floor. In the second half, David and Cade Lott really took over the middle. They were the difference in the ballgame."
Colby Upton added 14 points, while Hudson Bean added 12 points for the Patriots. Upton had 12 of his points in the first half.
"When we were struggling to put things together early, Colby really kept us a float," Harris said.