Heritage knocks off Rockdale, snaps nine-game losing streak to rivals

CONYERS -- If Saturday was any indication, there may be a changing of the guard in boys basketball in Rockdale County. Eric McIver had 21 points and nine rebounds, Rashad Jones added 16 points, and Heritage never trailed in defeating Rockdale 76-62 at Cleveland Stroud Gymnasium.

It's the first win for Heritage over its county rival in 10 tries. The last Patriots win was a 68-49 victory in January 2008.

The Patriots had their largest lead at 56-38 heading into the final quarter. The host Bulldogs got seven of C.J. Wilson's game-high 29 points during a 10-0 run that made it 56-48 with 5:45 left in the game. But Heritage, as it had all night, kept Rockdale at bay. Dave Rowe drained a pair of three-pointers, McIver, who dominated the paint for much of the night, had consecutive put backs, and Heritage put the win away hitting 6-of-8 free throws inside the final minute of the game.

"He's a workhorse in practice, he just goes to work," Heritage coach Drew Williams said of McIver. "We're really starting to see the dividends of his hard work. Any time you play Rockdale it's a fun night and big night. It's good to come over here and win after getting beat by them the last couple years (and) it's probably the most complete game that we've played."

Heritage raced out to a 15-4 lead after McIver threw down a dunk on an alley-oop pass from Steven Everson with 1:36 to play in the opening quarter. The Bulldogs stayed in the game thanks to their long-range shooting as Wilson hit three from behind the arc, and Darious Mitchell and LaRonte Parks added one each to keep the game tight at 26-21 midway through the second. Heritage never let the margin get below five points the rest of the way, though, and Kristopher Bridgeman had all four of his points and an assist on a bucket by Jones that helped the Patriots end the half up 38-27.

Rockdale got as close as 11 points in the third before McIver threw down an empathic dunk, and later, Terrell Rainey had two of his 13 points on a put back that made it 56-38 after three.

"It's always hard to go (to Rockdale) and win, it's always hard to beat their teams," Williams said. "We caught them on a good night I guess, and we really played hard."

In the girl's game, Rockdale went on a 27-0 run during the third and fourth quarters, forcing a plethora of Heritage turnovers, and rolled to a 54-25 win.

Rockdale led by 11 at halftime, but Heritage had 16 of its 37 turnovers during a scoreless third quarter, giving the hosts a chance to pull away.

After Aujana Dawkins, who led the Patriots with 14 points, scored on a putback with 2:04 left in the second, the Patriots went 11:06 without scoring a point. During Rockdale's extended spurt, which stretched over three separate quarters, Jonai Jackson scored seven of her 10 points and Breanna Richardson had five of her game-high 15 points as the Bulldogs built their largest lead at 49-16 with 5:31 left in the game.

Dawkins was one of the few bright spots for Heritage as the senior scored nine of Heritage's 16 first-half points, including the putback that got the Patriots to within 22-16. Jackson nailed a three-pointer off a nice pass from Richardson, then Jackson had a steal and layup that helped the Bulldogs go into the locker room up 27-16.

In the first, Dawkins scored the first bucket of the game 42 seconds in, but the Patriots had their first offensive drought of the night and could only muster one field goal over the next 8:33 as Rockdale built a 14-4 lead after one. The lead got as large as 12 points on a number of occasions, the last coming with 5:19 until halftime as Richardson had consecutive field goals to make it a 20-8 game.