Harrison’s boys basketball seniors were fifth-graders the last time someone defeated Lafayette Jeff in the J&C Hoops Classic.
The Raiders made their own tournament history on Tuesday night.
By utilizing its height advantage on both ends and denying the Broncho shooters in the second half, Harrison defeated Jeff 55-50 at Crawley Center and ended the six-time defending champions’ 20-game tournament winning streak.
“It was a real big accomplishment for our team,” said Harrison junior center Noah Thomas, who posted seven points and 10 rebounds. “After having a rough year last year, everyone thinks we’re going to have a down year. We just want to come out and show we’re a bunch of good guys, and we’re ready to win this year.”
Lafayette Jeff had not lost a J&C Hoops Classic game since a 71-61 loss to West Lafayette on Nov. 28, 2005. The host Bronchos were 25-2 over the tournament’s first nine years.
Harrison’s student section considered the victory historic enough to rush their team on the court after the game. The Raiders (2-0) are coming off a five-win season and went 0-3 in last year’s J&C Hoops Classic.
“Not so much a statement to others; it was just a statement to us,” said Harrison senior forward Jacob Bower, who scored nine of his 17 points in the fourth quarter. “Last year wasn’t the greatest season for us, and we have a lot of the same team. Within our locker room it was a game for us. Come out and play for us.”
Quarin Hood and Tyler Buchanan scored 18 points apiece for Lafayette Jeff (1-1). They combined to hit six 3-pointers in the first half, but the Bronchos couldn’t adjust when Harrison attacked the basket and piled up offensive rebounds in the second half.
Led by Thomas and Taylon Sondgerath, Harrison finished with a 13-7 edge on offensive rebounds and a 12-5 advantage on second-chance points.
“Yeah, they got the ball to the basket, but they missed a lot of shots and they had a ton of putbacks,” Jeff coach Scott Radeker said. “We just did not block anybody out. There were some possessions where they had two, three, four shots at the basket and we didn’t put a body on anybody. That was very disappointing.”
Cole Smith scored six straight points to give Harrison its first lead of the second half, 37-35, with 1:07 left in the third quarter. The Raiders extended that lead to 43-35 during a six-minute stretch in which Lafayette Jeff managed one field goal.
Peter Ripke and Buchanan then hit 3s on consecutive possessions to cut the deficit to two points and force a Harrison timeout. The Raiders even turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds, but Lafayette Jeff could not capitalize on two chances for tying or go-ahead baskets.
When Bower and Thomas converted and-one baskets in the paint on consecutive possessions — expanding the Harrison lead to 50-41 with 2:47 left — the Raiders seized control.
“I really did feel like this was our comeback time, going to that semifinal,” said Buchanan, who also led Jeff with eight rebounds and two blocks. “But I guess we got tired, and they just came out on top.”