For JF hoopsters, a 'Neer miss

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Cavs hang on against Heritage

By Mike Forster

  Hand grenades and horseshoes.

Those two items are used when discussing when coming close matters.

You can add one more to that list for the Jefferson Forest boys basketball crew:  Heritage.

That's because the Cavs played their hearts out in nearly upending the Seminole District's top team.  Playing on the Heritage home court, Jeff Forest was in a one-point game with two minutes remaining in the contest.  Heritage eventually pulled out a 51-44 victory.

The victory allowed the Pioneers to retain their perfect Seminole record (9-0).

The Cavs (3-6, Seminole) were trying to pull off their third straight win, after posting an impressive victory over Amherst (63-36) earlier in the week (Wednesday).  They had also topped Liberty last Monday.

A win over the Pioneers would have been the ultimate turnaround for a team that has been undergoing a mid-season metamorphosis.

What was once an offensive juggernaut is now in the business of stopping such juggernauts.  That was on display, Thursday night.  "I told our guys to get us into the last three minutes with a chance to win," said JF Head Coach Paul Smith.  "I'm proud of how they responded."

He should be.  Despite the loss, this was one of the finest performances by a Smith-coached team in his six years at the JF helm.

Disciplined defense was what the Cavs were all about.  Playing a 3-2, with Andrew Woodall, Hunter McConville and Tyler Lucy at the base and Sam Price and Jack Turner up top, JF presented a ring of steel.

Woodall and McConville, especially, deserve kudos for grinding it out with Heritage's taller post players.

"Our whole game plan was to keep the score down in the 40s," said Smith.  "We couldn't win in the 70s (against Heritage)."

Heritage never led by more than eight points.  Every time the Pioneers threatened to make a run, Jeff Forest responded.

Lucy, meanwhile, gave the Cavs the offensive firepower.  Scoring mostly off his tearing jaunts through the paint, the junior somehow managed to put up 18 points.

Many of Lucy's opportunities came as the Pioneers tried to limit the outside marksmanship of Sam Price. 

One other notable was the point guard play of Turner.  Pressed into starting duty at midseason, Turner looked poised and comfortable under the relentless pressure of the Heritage press.

In addition to Lucy's output, the Cavs were helped out by nine points from both Woodall and Price, as well as seven from McConville.

It all added up to the Cavs having that late-game shot at a win.  After Turner fed McConville for a layup, the Pioneers led, 42-41.  There were 125 ticks left on the clock.

Woodall sent Justen Joyner to the free throw line.  The junior hit his first, but missed his second.  Alas, Heritage retained possession after Joyner missed that second freebee.  Quinten Trent's hard drive to the hoop gave the Pioneers a four-point edge.  William McCoy came up with a huge steal, fed the ball to Malik Tyree, and the Pioneers suddenly had iced the game, for all intents and purposes.

"Things can turn around real fast against Heritage," noted Coach Smith.

True.  But it should also be noted that things seem to be turning around for his team.  In a good way.


Minutemen falter

Liberty had a rough go of things, facing the two toughest teams in the Seminole.

Against Glass, the Hilltoppers' speed and height were too much for the Minutemen.  They dropped that one, 70-44.  Hunter Taylor, who spent much of the evening trying to match up with Glass's 6' 9" Karl Overstreet, led the Minutemen with nine points.

Against Heritage, it was the speed and deftness of the Pioneers that doomed Liberty in a 62-29 Saturday matinee.  This was a makeup game from early in the season when the Heritage footballers were just recovering from their deep playoff run.

Taylor, again, led the Liberty offense.  He, again, put up nine points.

Liberty (4-7, Seminole) wrapped up regular season district play on Tuesday, hosting Amherst in a Senior Night special (played after this newspaper's press time of Tuesday afternoon).