FOREST — It was Senior Night at Jefferson Forest on Friday and pizza and snacks were waiting for the home team after the game. But against Heritage, the Cavaliers were looking for something they could feed off of while on the court.
Enter 6-foot-5 senior Mike Green, who gave JF all the nourishment it needed.
With 1:12 remaining in the third quarter and Heritage trying to claw back into the game, Green stood in the left corner beyond the arc. He received a pass from fellow senior Mark Hogsed, who was streaking into the lane and then dished and Green knocked down the 3-pointer.
It was a dagger.
The shot gave Forest a 12-point lead, and Heritage, which entered tied for first place in the Seminole District standings, never really recovered. The Pioneers whittled the lead down to double digits only two more times and JF earned a 50-42 victory in the first of two meetings between the two clubs.
“Those are the plays that we live off of,” Green said, rattling off a list of pivotal buckets and defensive stops his teammates have provided this season. “We play with that type of swagger, where all we need is one little spark and we’re on fire.”
Forest (14-5, 8-3 Seminole) used a 9-0 run to start the second half and coupled that with its height advantage in the form of 6-8 center Timothy Peters and 6-4 center John Isenhour. The two combined for 18 points, with Isenhour scoring 10. JF lobbed the ball over Heritage defenders throughout the game.
“It’s just a matchup problem,” Heritage coach Les Camm said, whose team is in the middle of a pivotal stretch of the season that features games against E.C. Glass and Liberty Christian next week before closing with JF, a rematch that will take place at HHS. “They’ve got a lot of height and if we can’t box those guys out, it’s gonna be a problem.”
Heritage (9-8, 8-3) fell behind LCA, which took over first place in the district outright Friday night. The Bulldogs defeated Liberty 46-39.
At JF, Heritage’s Jacobi Lambert led all scorers with 16 points and Kyle Ferguson added eight for the Pioneers.
“We were getting to the hole and doing what we wanted to do, we just couldn’t convert,” Lambert said. “We weren’t focused in as much as they were.”
JF junior guard Jordan Everhart led his team with 11 points, while Peters chipped in eight.
“I thought our defense was really good tonight,” JF coach Jeff Monroe said. “I thought the guys came out focused and ready to play. That’s a really good team right there, and to hold them to 42 points, I thought our defense was good.
“I was pleased with how hard-nosed the guys played. We lost to Liberty here last week, but they came back tonight and the seniors stepped up.”
Heritage trailed by just one point at the halftime, courtesy of 10-1 run. But by the time Green sank his 3 late in the third quarter, the Pioneers were fading. JF led by as many as 15 in the fourth quarter before HHS cut the deficit to nine with 1:47 remaining.
Green, who finished with six points, said his team has developed the mentality they can take anyone down.
“Doesn’t matter who it is,” Green added. “Could be the Golden State Warriors, could be LeBron. We’re gonna go out with the chance that we can win every night. So I just think the demeanor that we had, going out there with energy, with the team chemistry that we had and getting this one for this seniors, I think that meant a lot.”
Forest plays its final three regular-season games on the road, at Brookville on Monday before closing out the week at Rustburg and then traveling to Heritage on Feb. 10.
For the Pioneers, it’s a fast turnaround. They host Glass on Monday night at 7 p.m. in a rematch of last month’s game that HHS won 40-36.
“We already know what’s coming with the double-team,” Lambert said.
“I know some of our players will make shots and if we do that, we’ll win.”
Camm said his team will need to display effort for a full 32 minutes Monday in order to earn the season sweep of the Hilltoppers.
“Just trying to score one more point than Glass does,” he said with a smile.
Green wore a smile Friday night, too.
“There are gonna be big plays and people are gonna step up,” he said of his game-defining 3-pointer.
“I think it was just my turn at that point.”
Ben Cates covers high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5527.