In a Monday night make-up game, the Harper Creek Beavers boys’ basketball team used a dominating defensive effort in the second half to down the visiting Mattawan Wildcats 57-44.
Harper creek trailed by four at the half, but held its opponent to just 13 second-half points as the Beavers improve to 7-1 on the season with the win.
“We had two kids in the mix tonight that we haven’t had all year,” said Harper Creek head coach Matt Bowling. “It’s kinda like game one again – we’re figuring things out as we go as coaches as far as lineups.
“I don’t have anything negative to say. Sure, we’d like to finish a few more times around the rim, but we held them to 13 points in the second half.”
The two players who coach Bowling mentioned are Travon Johnson and Khylen Watkins, who scored seven and eight points, respectively.
Harper Creek held a 16-11 lead at the end of one quarter, but Mattawan battled back in the second to take the lead. With 1:25 remaining in the half, Darek Ditto hit two free throws to give the Wildcats a 27-26 advantage. Ditto scored 11 points in the quarter, going 9-of-10 from the line.
At the break, Mattawan clung to a slim 31-27 lead.
But the Beavers played a much better second half. They didn’t allow a single made field goal in the third quarter. Mattawan only scored four points in the third, all of them on free throws by Ditto.
Harper Creek didn’t score much in the third either, but the points they did score were important. Near the end of the quarter, Watkins hit a go-ahead 3-pointer from the left wing, making it 36-33 at that point.
Ditto would make two free throws after that, sending the teams into the fourth quarter with the scoreboard reading 36-35.
The fourth quarter opened with Mattawan’s Caleb Doonan hitting a turnaround jumper to take the lead, but Harper Creek was quick to take it back, and kept it for good.
After Doonan’s bucket, the Beavers went on a 10-0 scoring run, giving them a 48-37 lead.
Mattawan’s Gabe Pelak drained a 3-pointer to bring the deficit to single digits, but Harper Creek wasn’t going to let the Wildcats stage a comeback. The Beavers closed out the game on a 9-to-4 run, completing their 57-44 victory.
Brandon Hutson scored nine points in the fourth quarter for Harper Creek, which got the attention of his coach. “I thought Brandon did a nice job defensively against their big kid,” said Bowling. “He’s been getting better…and he’s finishing stronger around the rim so we hope he continues to grow with that and continues to get better.”
Ditto led the game in scoring for either team with 18, going 16-of-20 from the charity stripe.
For Harper Creek, Hutson led the way with 14 points, followed by James Cadena with nine.