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LaFAYETTE, Ga. — There are lofty expectations this season for the LaFayette boys' basketball program after an appearance in last year's quarterfinals of the GHSA state playoffs. But Ramblers coach Hank Peppers knows that if his team is going to achieve this year's goals, it's going to have to start at the defensive end of the floor.

The host Ramblers played a dominant defensive game Friday night against Heritage, holding the Generals to 20 points in the final three quarters in a 48-33 Region 6-AAAA victory. LaFayette was led by Dee Southern with 15 points, while Alex Kelehear scored 14.

"I'm so happy with the way we played defensively tonight," Peppers said. "If we're going to get back to where we were last year, we have to control the game on the defensive end and with our rebounding. I'm proud of our effort tonight and how well we did in those two phases of the game."

It was a back-and-forth battle in the first quarter. The two teams traded baskets, resulting in three ties and four lead changes and a 13-11 lead for Heritage (9-9, 4-4) at the end of the period.

That trend continued until midway through the second quarter. With Heritage ahead 14-13, the Ramblers (18-1, 6-1) went on a 7-0 run to grab a 20-14 lead, one they wouldn't relinquish for the rest of the game.

A stifling defensive effort by LaFayette and poor shooting from the Generals led to the Ramblers extending their four-point halftime lead to 12 early in the third period. Heritage finished the game 1-of-18 from behind the arc.

"I was extremely proud of our defensive effort tonight," Heritage coach Kevin Terry said. "To hold that team to 48 points is something we should be proud of. We just couldn't hit a shot tonight. We've concentrated a lot on the defensive side of the ball in practice, and we just need to turn our focus over to offense."

Offensively, the third period belonged to Southern. The senior post player scored eight points in the quarter, including two treys. Both Southern and Kelehear showed their senior leadership as they chased down loose balls, something Peppers says is a key for the team.

"The leadership those guys bring is huge for us," Peppers said. "It's infectious and just trickles down into our young guys and throughout our program."

LaFayette closed the game with a 12-4 run for the final margin. Heritage was led by Will Allen with 12 points, while Nolan Letzgus chipped in nine.

Contact Kevin Llewallyn at sports@timesfreepress.com.

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