Bingham gets hot in second half to help shoot Christian Heritage to Elite 8

danielmayes, The Daily Citizen, Dalton, Ga.
·2 min read

Feb. 28—Outside of Nash Bingham, Christian Heritage School could only muster two points in the third quarter of Saturday's boys Class A Private Sweet 16 playoff game against Athens Academy.

Fortunately for the Lions, Bingham nailed four 3-pointers in that quarter to help keep the Lions ahead as Athens Academy made a push. Christian Heritage (22-2) warded off the Spartans (7-17) 68-56 to advance to the Elite 8. The Lions will make the trip to Macon to play First Presbyterian Day School (22-1) either Tuesday or Wednesday.

"Nash had a huge second half making shots for us," Christian Heritage head coach Tyler Watkins said. "He's been very good for us as a senior and sometimes gets overlooked."

Bingham's push came at the perfect time for Christian Heritage. After a second quarter run cut what was once a double-digit Christian Heritage lead down to one, Bingham quickly push the lead back up.

"I got a couple of quick, open shots," Bingham said. "Once I saw the ball go in, it made it easier to get a rhythm going."

Bingham, who finished with 17 points and five 3-pointers, wasn't the only Lion with an outstanding stretch.

Jax Abernathy was the guy in the first quarter, scoring nine in the opening period to help Christian Heritage gain that quick advantage. The Lions led 23-13 after the first quarter.

The second quarter saw Christian Heritage struggle to find the basket. Athens Academy scored the first eight points in the period and held the Lions to just 10 points in the quarter, shrinking the lead to 33-29 at halftime.

Even after Bingham's outburst in the third, Athens Academy didn't allow the Lions to pull away. Athens Academy scored seven straight points late in the third quarter and trailed 47-41 headed into the final frame.

The Spartans hung around, keeping the game within 10 points until three minutes to go.

Zundra Jackson hit two big threes in the fourth to help preserve the win, and Abernathy finished strong by making free throws as the Spartans resorted to fouling.

Abernathy scored 23, while Jackson scored 16.

"It just took the whole team tonight," Watkins said.

Despite a significant frontcourt size advantage — Athens Academy had two players taller than 6-foot-5 — Christian Heritage limited damage from offensive rebounding and second chance points for the Spartans.

"We're undersized, but we just battle," Bingham said of the Lions. "We're not the biggest, but we fight hard."

Christian Heritage is in the Elite 8 for the third time in four years. The Lions reached the Final Four in 2019. When Christian Heritage plays First Presbyterian, which is the top seed from Region 1, the teams will combine for just three total losses.