Harper Creek hadn’t played a game in 10 days as the Beavers headed into their match-up against Marshall.
With that type of layoff, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see the Beavers begin the game out of sync. But instead they began the game on an 18-4 run. And despite a few comeback attempts by the Redhawks, the game was Harper Creek’s to win from the start.
Harper Creek defeated Marshall, 69-60, in this Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East Division boys’ basketball game on Friday.
“We made some plays offensively when we needed to,” said Harper Creek head coach Matt Bowling. “We got some stops, and our kids just battled. But the key was our dribble penetration along with some defensive rebounds. I’m proud of them for hanging in there.”
After their early run, Harper Creek took a 18-9 lead into the second quarter.
Early in the second, it looked like more of the same as the Beavers extended their advantage to 25-12.
But that’s when the Redhawks began to battle back. Drew DeVine hit two 3-pointers in final minutes of the first half for Marshall, which had fought back to go into the halftime locker room down just three points, with the score sitting at 34-31, still in favor of Harper Creek.
Within the first minute of the second half, the Redhawks had taken the lead on a 3-pointer by Daniel Welke.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as the Beavers scored the next 14 points of the contest, including a put-back layup by Khylen Watkins to put them up by double digits, 46-36, late in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter seemed to be going Harper Creek’s way after they took their biggest lead of the game at 56-42 with less than five minutes to play.
But Marshall head coach Nick Dent decided to start intentionally fouling with quite a bit of time left in the game, and it paid off.
Harper Creek missed 10 free throws in the fourth quarter, and back-to-back 3-point baskets from DeVine had the Redhawks down just by five points with the score at 61-56 and 1:04 remaining.
“DeVine had a breakout night,” said Dent. “He shot the ball really well. We’ve known he could do that, and we’re happy that he finally was able to knock down shots that we know he can make, so that was exciting.”
Unfortunately for Marshall, that’s the closest they would come. Jack Thompson and Watkins each hit key free throws in the final minute to seal the 69-60 victory for Harper Creek.
“I think we had a lot of balance out there tonight,” said Bowling. “We had some guys that were able to get in the lane when they wanted to and created offense for themselves at some different points in the game, so I think our balance was key tonight.”
For Marshall, this was their second loss of the week (they lost Wednesday to Battle Creek Central by eight points), but despite the losses, coach Dent feels that his team is getting better.
“It helps me feel good as a coach to know that we’re improving. Both of the teams we played this week completely destroyed us the first time around, and this time around we’re competing. You’re never happy when you lose a game, but there’s a lot of things that happened tonight that I’m happy with,” Dent said.
Harper Creek was led by Thompson and Travon Johnson with 17 points each. James Cadena and Watkins followed closely with 15 and 14, respectively. Cadena also added eight rebounds for the Beavers.
For Marshall, DeVine led the way with 22 points, while Jacob Brubaker finished with 19. Also contributing for the Redhawks was Angus Bennett with 10 points and 12 boards.