Fourth-quarter spurt lifts Harrison by Beaver in D-II

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Harrison Central had its confidence shook during last week’s OVAC Basketball Tournament.

The Huskies were routed twice and finished fourth in Class 4A, so head coach Justin Clifford gave his team a few days off to re-group.

The strategy evidently worked.

The Huskies’ second season got under way with a 58-50 victory against Beaver Local Friday night inside the Health and Physical Education Center on the campus of Ohio University Eastern as Division II Sectional play opened.

“Our feelings got hurt last week (in the OVAC Tournament),” Clifford said. “To be totally honest, we probably had the best week of practice we’ve had all season leading up to this game and that’s a tribute to the older guys on this team. When you play now, it’s survive and advance and we survived.”

Harrison Central, which is now 15-7 on the season, will return to OUE on Tuesday to meet Buckeye 8 rival Indian Creek, which swept the Huskies during the regular season.

The Beavers, who finished their season at 12-11, were certainly feisty throughout, especially in the second half.

It looked as if Harrison Central was on the verge of pulling away in the third quarter. The Huskies owned a 29-20 cushion at the intermission and the lead swelled to as many as 13 in the third, but the Beavers got it going from there.

“We made some plays in the third quarter to get us back in the game,” said Beaver Local head coach Jake Walgate.

Most of those plays came on the defensive end as the Beavers forced the Huskies into upwards of six turnovers in the third, most of which led to run-out chances in transition.

Senior Troy Hudson, who came into the game needing 15 for 1,000 in his career, scored nine in the third quarter to fuel the rally. He finished with 19 points, leaving him with 1,004 for his career.

The Huskies were able to keep the Beavers at bay thanks to a pair of big triples in the period by Nate Olmstead and senior leader Fletcher Watt. Senior Nick Pelegreen had a conventional three-point play as well for Harrison, which took a 42-37 lead into the final chapter.

“Beaver is a skilled basketball team that has guys who can score,” Clifford said. “Coach Walgate has done a nice job with that team this season. We knew they wouldn’t go away, but we had some guys step up for us.”

Beaver knotted the game twice in the fourth at 44 and 46, but were never able to get the lead. After tying the game at 46, the Huskies were able to turn up the defense. They forced a turnover on three consecutive possessions, and converted all into points.

“We talked about guarding better,” Clifford said. “I didn’t think we guarded as well as we usually had in the OVAC games. I think we got away from what we did and I take blame for that, so we got after it this week in practice.”

With the game tied at 46, Watt got an off-balance leaner to drop and talented sophomore Austin Kowalski drove into the paint and knocked a shot down, making it 50-46.

“When we needed a play, Austin made one for us,” Clifford said. “He made a few turnovers, but he’s fearless in a good and bad way. I’ll take those kinds of guys.”

Thanks to free throw shooting by Kowalski and Pelegreen, the Beavers never got any closer than 51-47 the rest of the way.

“We got the penetration we were looking for, but I think we waited a little too long to kick it out and it got us into some bad opportunities,” Walgate said. “If we’re going to take credit for getting back into the game with it in the third, we definitely have to try it in the fourth. It just turned out to be our downfall.”

The Huskies were led by a quartet of double-figure scorers. Watt netted 18, while Kowalski and Pelegreen each had 13. Senior Rashaen Mitchell, who had a big first half, finished with 12 points.

Hudson was complemented in the Beaver Local scoring column by Zack Mick’s 13 and Jared Lyder’s 10.

BEAVER LOCAL (50) – Hilliard 1, 2-4 4; Lyder 5, 0-0 10; Fetty 2, 0-0 4; Hudson 8, 2-3 19; Mick 5, 0-0 13; Campbell 0, 0-0 0; Cornell 0, 0-0 0; Underwood 0, 0-0 0; Chamberlain 0, 0-0 0; Totals: 21, 4-7 50. HARRISON CENTRAL (58) – K. Mitchell 0, 0-0 0; Kowalski 2, 8-8 13; Watt 6, 3-7 18; R. Mitchell 5, 2-3 12; Pelegreen 3, 7-8 13; Olmstead 1, 0-0 3; Rutter 0, 0-0 0; Yoho 0, 0-0 0; Evans 0, 0-0 0; Totals: 17, 20-25 58.

Three-Point Goals: BL – Mick (3), Hudson. HC – Watt (3), Kowalski.