By Becky Kimbrell-Norris
WAKE FOREST — Heritage High junior guard Jared Joyner scored 14 points, including nine in the extra frame, leading his team to a 64-60 non-conference overtime win Monday night against visiting Knightdale High.
“Jared stepped up his game in the overtime,” said Heritage basketball coach Pat Kennedy. “He showed great leadership and made some good decisions in the stretch.”
Heritage improved its record to 4-0 and is off to its best start in the program’s four-year history.
“Every year we have gotten better,” Kennedy said. “As the season goes on, our guys should really be playing good on both ends of the court.”
For all but the briefest time in the opening minutes and in the fourth quarter, Knightdale led for the majority of the game but had difficulty closing out the Huskies on their home-court.
With 4:44 left to go in regulation, Sam McNair of Heritage hit a basket, which tied the score at 46-46. Exactly one minute later, a jumper by McNair gave the Huskies a two-point advantage and following a Knightdale turnover, Joyner scored on a bucket, giving Heritage a 50-46 lead with three minutes remaining in the game.
But seizing the momentum, the Knights retaliated with two baskets of their own knotting the score at 50-all.
The final two minutes of regulation was excruciating as neither team found any more offensive flow, forcing the game into an extra five minute period.
“We did a good job of not turning the ball over so many times during our execution,” Kennedy said. “Knightdale is a very good team and they are very athletic and win or lose, we knew we could play with them.”
In the extra session, Joyner opened it up nailing a three pointer and then a jumper to stake the Huskies to a 55-50 lead.
The Knights began to battle again and tied the score at 57-57 with a minute left in overtime.
“We gave them the first punch and they punched right back,” Kennedy said.
Heritage had difficulty getting the ball in- bounds a couple of times against Knightdale’s full court press and turned the ball over.
“That was the coaches fault,” Kennedy said. “We have not prepared them for out of bounds play and that’s something we have to work on.”
But the Huskies were able to convert on seven of eight free throws down the stretch to remain unbeaten.
“This win gives us confidence that we can close out games,” Kennedy said, “and also that we can play with anyone.”
Both teams started out with a fast paced offense with the lead going back and forth three times. However back to back three-pointers by the Knights at the end of the first quarter gave them the lead at 17-14.
Neither team looked in control at the beginning of the second quarter as there were ten missed shots between the two in the first four and a half minutes.
DeSean Mosby of Heritage had the only basket in the first two minutes, pulling the Huskies to within 17-16.
Following a Knightdale timeout, both teams loaded their offensive guns and shot for 24 points in the remainder of the quarter, but Heritage still trailed 30-27 at the break.
“The momentum was swinging back and forth,” Kennedy said. “We had several players step up when needed. Some were playing good offensively and others had a good night defensively.”
The Huskies Josh Katowitz hoisted his team onto his shoulders in the third quarter, scoring seven points that included a three point bucket.
Heritage took bigger pieces out of the Knights lead and Gershom Ejoni’s basket with 3:39 left in the quarter, tied the game at 38-38.
Compounding some missed shots by Heritage, Knightdale’s Daquan Lilly hit two consecutive shots, including a dunk to put the Knights back in front at 42-38.
Ejoni and Joyner both scored and the Huskies were down 44-42, going into the final quarter.
“We got down at times but we came back and were effective down the stretch,” Kennedy said.
Mosby and Katowitz led the Huskies in scoring with 14 points each. Joyner and McNair contributed 11 and ten points, respectively.
Knightdale was paced by Lilly’s 17 points and Ronshad Allen-Shabazz had 14.
Heritage will host East Wake in another non-conference game today (Thursday) at 7 pm.
“They have some good players and it should be a good game,” Kennedy said.