The Apalachee High School Wildcats seemed to have things well in hand Tuesday night against visiting Heritage.
The Wildcats led by 16 points after the third quarter and appeared set to secure the Region 8-AAAAA victory. Slowly, Heritage began chipping away at the AHS lead and got within two points with 1:52 left.
The Wildcats, however, would not allow another point and held on for a 71-62 win to the relief of coach Kevin Morris.
“We let them get back in it by missing too many free throws,” Morris said after the game. “They were fouling and it was hard for us to close it out.”
Cameron Blakley finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds for AHS, who improved to 10-3 overall and 5-3 in region play.
No other Wildcat player was in double figures, but Brandon Grullon contributed nine key points with Rakim Peters and Ahmed Ahmed scoring seven each. Jermaine Smith finished with six points while Qua Cleveland had five points and nine rebounds.
“We played at the end like we were down, instead of ahead,” Morris said. “We have to do a better job of handling a run a team goes on. When we are ahead, we need to make them work for a shot. It’s all part of a learning process in getting better and being able to handle success.”
AHS held a slim 17-15 lead after the first quarter and had moved in front 36-28 by halftime.
“This was a big win because you don’t want to lose two region games in a row,” Morris said.
In looking ahead, Morris said Friday’s game against Cedar Shoals will be key. Following a non-region game Saturday at Habersham Central, AHS will travel to Clarke Central Tuesday.
“Cedar gave us our first loss,” Morris said. “We need to come back and split with them. We don’t want to lose a tiebreaker with them.”