When you play Harper Creek, the scouting report says you want to try and slow down the up-tempo Beavers.
But what happens when your team is built to play uptempo also?
You get a high-scoring contest and on this night, it ends up being a victory for the Beavers as Harper Creek outscored Marshall, 94-73, in this Interstate 8 Conference boys’ basketball game at Marshall on Friday.
The No. 8-ranked Beavers improve to 17-2 with Marshall falling to 8-10.
Charley Andrews of Harper Creek attempts to drive through Marshall’s Cortazia Wilson
So were the Beavers surprised Marshall wanted to run with them?
“No, that’s Marshall’s strength, too. Their strength is their guard play, their athleticism, their ability to get up and down the court. If I was sitting in their shoes, I would probably do the same thing. You have to play your game to give your team a chance to win,” Harper Creek coach Matt Bowling said.
That strategy kept Marshall in the game much of the first half, trailing just 26-24 after the first quarter. And the Redhawks were only down 46-36 at intermission.
But Harper Creek scored the first six points of the second half, on two fast break layups by TraVon Johnson and then a third basket by Brandon Hutson off a nice feed from Johnson to make it 52-36.
Then, before Marshall could react, the Beavers continued the offensive pressure. Harper Creek eventually stretched that early second-half spurt to a 14-2 run to start the third quarter, finished off by a layup by James Cadena to make it 60-38 with 4:25 remaining in the quarter.
“We know Harper Creek wants to run, but we have to be able to run, too. We can’t play any other way. We aren’t a halfcourt, set-up, slow-it-down team. We have athletic players, that’s our strength. We have to play a full-court game with our hair on fire,” Marshall coach Nick Dent said. “Sometimes we can do that and sometimes we can’t. Sometimes our defense doesn’t play well enough to allow us to do that. That was obviously the case tonight, giving up 94 points.”
Johnson led Harper Creek with 32 points, 10 rebounds and six assists as Khylen Watkins added 23 points with Cadena adding 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds and Hutson chipping in 10 points.
Jacob Brubaker led Marshall with 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists with Montez Brewer adding 13.
The contest was a preview of tournament play for both teams as Marshall and Harper Creek will meet in the first round of the district tournament in a little more than a week.
“This was a big game for us, a rivalry game and it was against a team we are going to see again very soon. So it was important for us to play well tonight and play at a high level and show off some offensive firepower,” Bowling said. “So I was pleased with that part of it tonight.”