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Ervin reprises old-school gem as Mountaineers end region drought
Heritage’s Keenan Berger, right, takes a breather along the free-throw lane. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Blake Ervin busts a monster move for this second half basket.

Blake Ervin busts a monster move.

If you’re old enough to remember “Dr. J,” it made your heart beat fast.

Blake Ervin pulled off one of the moves of the season when the Heritage junior swept beneath the backboard for a spinning, reverse lay in with five minutes to play in the third.

Julius Erving messed up the Lakers with a move like that once.

Ervin’s rendition got Heritage going in a big way, the Mountaineers going on to close out Farragut, 53-41, in a District 4AAA quarterfinal Thursday night at Maryville.

Heritage (22-11) advances to a semifinal meeting with host and top-seed Maryville (22-5) tonight at 7:30. No. 2-seed Bearden (26-2) meets Lenoir City (17-12) in the other semifinal at 9.

Thursday’s win qualifies the Mountaineers for the region tournament for the first time in 11 seasons.

Jake Long and Hunter Bailey paced Heritage with 12 points each as the Mountaineers avenged a pair of regular season losses to the Admirals. Ervin and backcourt mate Andrew Pryor finished with nine each for Heritage, Keenan Berger eight.

Keegan McGuire led the Admirals with 13.

Owners of one of the state’s top defenses at 43.4 points allowed per game, the Mountaineers limited the Admirals to a single bucket in the opening quarter. A 9-2 Heritage lead after one was 19-11 at the half as Bailey and Berger began asserting themselves around the basket at the other end.

“I thought it was key getting up on them defensively,” Duncan said. “Offensively, we wanted to go at them and attack them and take them off the dribble.”

Andrew Pryor brings it up against Farragut's Keegan McGuire.

Andrew Pryor brings it up against Farragut’s Keegan McGuire.

Working through Bailey and Berger inside made his job a lot easier, Long said.

“That controlled the game,” he said. “That was major. We always try to look inside first. We know they can finish.”

After an opening bucket from Berger to start the third, Ervin went up the right baseline with a swooping drive that put a sizeable Heritage cheering section at full power.

“No one was open, so I tried to take it to the basket,” Ervin said. “I did it a couple of times in practice this week, so I said, ‘Why not?’”

Heritage led, 31-21, to start the fourth.

Telling throughout was Bailey’s dominance around the basket. Back after missing a couple of games, the Mountaineer big man can be an unstoppable scorer. It led to a frustration foul by Farragut’s Matt Eggert late, highlighting of a final four minutes that saw the Mountaineers bury the Admirals at the free-throw line.

Eggert was whistled for a foul and issued two technical fouls after pulling Bailey to the court with 1:52 remaining, Heritage holding a 43-32 lead. Bailey made good on five of the following six free throws.

The Admirals sent the Mountaineers to the line for 22 free throws the last three minutes, Heritage converting 11 of them to stay clear.

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