JAMES CITY — The Heritage Hurricanes entered the Ironclad Conference 18 boys basketball tournament as underdogs, but they left as champions.
No. 4 seed Heritage bested No. 2 Jamestown 74-63 Friday night, and after the final buzzer, teammates crowded together on Jamestown's home court, trying to touch a piece of the trophy.
While both the Hurricanes and Eagles will move on to next week's Group 4A East regional tournament, the win still held meaning for Heritage.
"Winning a championship provided a real confidence boost for these guys," Heritage coach Michael Gardner said. "I've told them they can be champions, but now they believe it."
With the victory, the Hurricanes also claimed the prize of home-court advantage in the first round of the regional. They will host King's Fork on Tuesday in front of their home crowd.
The Hurricanes seemed to have brought a large piece of that crowd with them for Friday's game, and the players said they fed off the cheers from the bleachers.
"How long is this from Heritage, an hour?" senior guard Jermaine Marrow said. "And they all came out tonight to support us. They believe in us. That means a lot."
Marrow scored a game-high 27 points Friday after posting 41 in the Hurricanes' 70-59 victory over No. 1 Smithfield on Thursday.
If quantity matters more than quality, consider Marrow's play during a key stretch of the third quarter.
After trailing at halftime, Jamestown had jumped to an early second-half lead behind sharp-shooting twin brothers Evan and Mason Wang.
Marrow scored a breakaway layup, then tossed an alley-oop to teammate Leland Richardson to put Heritage back on top. On the next possession Marrow swished a 3-pointer, and then he grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast for a contested layup.
The Hurricanes never gave up the lead again.
Heritage locked down the win by tightening up on defense after Jamestown scored early and often from the lane. Of Jamestown's 30 first-half points, 20 came from within 4 feet of the hoop.
An Eagles player would drive up one side of the lane, and Heritage defenders would all move toward the ball, leaving an open Eagle under the basket to receive a pass and finish a layup.
"Our guys kept moving over to help, but it was like: 'Stay home, man,' " Gardner said. "When they made that adjustment in the second half, we did a better job."
Jamestown made up for the adjustment with deadly 3-point shooting early in the second half, but that proved unsustainable.
The Hurricanes held a seven-point advantage by the end of the third quarter, and the Eagles never seriously threatened again as Heritage closed out its championship.
HERITAGE 74, JAMESTOWN 63
HERITAGE (13-7): Marrow 27, Rudolph 15, Stevens 5, Huff 7, Walker 6, Richardson 12, Mayfield 2. Totals 29 12-16 74.
JAMESTOWN (17-5): Jones 1, M. Wang 10, Devine 3, Brown 4, E. Wang 13, Schmidt 15, Lipscomb 2, Fields 2, Swain 11, Klyman 2. Totals 23 11-19 63.
Heritage13182221 — 74Jamestown15151617 — 63