Harrison’s Josiah Heath strung together back-to-back 3-point shots in the fourth quarter while his teammates made 10 of 12 free throws in the game’s final two minutes to withstand a furious Lafayette Jeff comeback for a 73-70 win in the J&C Hoops Classic consolation round Thursday night.
Harrison will now play in the fifth-place game in the Crawley Center at 4 p.m. Saturday against Frankfort. Lafayette Jeff will battle Benton Central in the seventh-place game in Dennis Blind Gymnasium at the same time Saturday.
“Something that we talk about a lot is facing adversity, and we did that really well tonight,” said Heath, whose 3-pointers helped slow down Jeff’s first fourth-quarter push. “We knew it would be a game of runs. Jeff’s a really good team and they are really athletic. It’s good for us to beat an athletic team like that.”
Harrison set J&C records for free throws, making 33 freebies on 43 attempts. Cade Renicker’s 10-for-10 performance from the free throw line tied the record for free throw percentage. He finished with 16 points.
Raiders forward Taylon Sondgerath came off the bench because of “program rules,” said coach Mark Rinehart, but dominated the paint when he was on the floor with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Harrison led by 10 in the third quarter, 49-39, after a Renicker 3-pointer before Jeff made a run to get back into game.
Quarin Hood made two 3-point shots sandwiched around a David Hanyard free throw in the final minute of the period to cut Harrison’s advantage to 49-46 to begin the fourth quarter. Hood scored 14 points for the Bronchos, who were led by Darian Collins’ 23 points and Hanyard’s 20.
“I told the guys I really appreciated the way we battled to get back into the game, but if you look at the 10 to 12 possessions that led up to it, we were nonexistent,” said Jeff’s coach Scott Radeker. “For most of the third quarter, if you see the looks on our faces, it was blank stares. There was no energy and no enthusiasm. We got things going a little bit and the energy came back. We’ve got to able play through those tough times and have the same energy and enthusiasm.”
Jeff made it all the way back on a Hood steal and layup with 4:45 left in the game to tie the score at 52-all. But the Bronchos could never regain the lead as Raiders went on an 11-2 run, sparked by Heath’s 3-points shots to lift the lead to nine points, 63-54.
“I just thank my teammates for getting me the ball and trusting me to shoot those, and for the coaching staff having faith in me in making those,” Heath said of his shots. “I felt like I was in a rhythm and had a good look, and if I shoot with confidence, I could knock it down.”
Harrison seemed to have control of the contest after two Renicker free throws made the score 66-56 with 1:42 left in the game. It took the Bronchos about 35 seconds to make it a one-possession game again on a Trevor Mays jumper and two driving shots by Collins.
The Raiders’ Jake Fernung made one of two free throws with 9.6 seconds left to give Harrison a 71-68 edge, but Rinehart opted to foul Hanyard with 5.6 ticks left. The freshman made both free throws, getting the lead to one, but Harrison’s Matt Vawter made both of his free throws with 4.9 left to seal the game.
“It was great for us to just survive that,” Rinehart said. “We have so many young kids who haven’t been through it before. We talked for the last 48 hours about how much pride Jeff has and they don’t want to play in the last-place game and we don’t want to play in the last-place game. We knew this would be what it was.”