Lions can't down No. 1: Christian Heritage falls to Greenforest in battle of top-ranked teams

Jan. 19—Christian Heritage School's boys basketball team is ranked No. 3 in the state in Class A DII.

The only problem for the Lions?

No. 1 is in Region 7-A DII too.

Christian Heritage (15-4) came up short in a showdown with No. 1 ranked Greenforest Christian (15-4) in Dalton Friday night, cutting a second-half deficit down, but not enough, in a 76-64 loss.

Two technical foul free throws at the conclusion of the third quarter allowed top-ranked Greenforest to take a 59-48 lead into the fourth, and a quick start grew the visitors' lead to 64-49.

Cash Hare capped a 10-4 run with a putback layup through a foul to get the game back into single digits at the 3:29 mark, but nine was as small as Greenforest's advantage shrank. An Isaac Plavich layup made it 10 again with 1:39 left and a Jax Abernathy bucket cut the lead to 10 with 50 seconds left, but Greenforest made enough timely baskets, then enough free throws at the end of the game as the Lions began fouling intentionally.

Christian Heritage head coach Tyler Watkins made the call to stop his team from fouling with about 30 seconds left, and the talented, explosive visitors dribbled out the remainder of the clock to hand Christian Heritage its first loss on its home floor in almost two years.

Greenforest has been the kryptonite for an otherwise dominant Christian Heritage team in the last two years. Greenforest was the only team to hand the Lions a regular season loss last year, and they did it again in the region tournament. Christian Heritage will hope for another shot at No. 1 when the region tourney rolls around this season.

Greenforest used multiple 8-0 runs in the first quarter to get leads.

The visitors scored the first eight points of the game, before Carter Triplett splashed back-to-back 3-pointers to get a standing-room-only crowd at Christian Heritage engaged. Dontae Crowder ten hit a triple to tie the game at 11, but another 8-0 spurt gave Greenforest a lead that would never fully evaporate, despite the Lions' best efforts.

The two teams combined for six triples in the first quarter, but it was Greenforest that came out of the period with a 23-14 lead.

The Eagles flew out to another offensive spurt to start the second quarter, and a 33-17 lead forced a Watkins timeout. Greenforest had, at that point, outscored Christian Heritage 22-6 since the 11-11 tie.

Christian Heritage closed the half strong, though, as Abernathy took his turn to swish back-to-back triples late in the quarter to sink the deficit under double-digits at 41-33 at halftime.

Abernathy had 15 at the half for Christian Heritage, but began seeing more double teams after the break.

But the Lions still managed a strong start to the third quarter, and, after five straight Plavich points and an Abernathy steal-and-score, the Greenforest lead shrank to just three.

The Eagles pushed it back up later in the third, and the technical foul, which came after a very quick whistle as the Christian Heritage bench argued that Abernathy was fouled on a potential buzzer-beating 3-pointer, pushed the advantage over 10 again.

Abernathy fought through tough, athletic defense to finish with a game-high 24. Triplett finished with four 3-pointers and had 15 points, and Hare had nine.

Greenforest's Elijah Lewis scored 17, doing most of his damage off the dribble on moves toward the rim. Caleb Kawela scored 16, and 6-foot-9-inch Daniel Daramola scored 12.

After taking its first region loss, Christian Heritage will take on Southwest Atlanta Christian on the road on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

Prior to the boys game, the Lady Lions (11-9) also were handed a defeat by visiting Greenforest (13-4), who is also ranked No. 1 in Class A DII.

Facing a height disadvantage at several positions, Christian Heritage fell 65-24.

Greenforest had won seven straight before a loss against Class 7A Campbell.

The loss was the first in region play for the Lady Lions.

Christian Heritage plays at Southwest Atlanta Christian Tuesday at 6 p.m.