When Harrison Central boys' basketball coach Justin Clifford and Martins Ferry's Jeff Sabatino got together prior to Tuesday night's tip-off inside the John W. Stephenson Center in Cadiz, Clifford admitted to his counterpart that his team wasn't shooting well from the floor.
Well, all the Huskies (4-1) did was blister the nets at a 65-percent clip en route to a workmanlike, 64-48, Buckeye 8 victory before a raucous crowd.
"Like I just told the guys, everything looks better when the ball goes in the hoop," Clifford said. "Our seniors stepped up big tonight."
HARRISON CENTRAL’S Rashaen Mitchell (21) and Martins Ferry’s Cody Schau vie in Tuesday night’s opening tip inside the John W. Stephenson Center in Cadiz. The Huskies prevailed, 64-48. Additional images can be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
After scoring just 25 points in a loss at Indian Creek last Friday, the hosts came out clicking on all cylinders as they raced to a 15-0 lead.
Fletcher Watt tallied six of his game-high 23 points in the initial eight minutes, but it was reserve Cody Evans that electrified the home crowd.
Coming off the bench for Nick Pelegreen, who picked up two early fouls, the 5-9 junior knocked down back-to-back triples to spark the early surge.
"That's what we expect from Cody," Clifford allowed. "That's his role. Everyone on this team has a role, and that's his."
The Purple Riders, who misfired on their first 10 shots from the floor and registered seven turnovers, didn't dent their side of the scoreboard until Jake Barritt's floater in the lane found the bottom of the net with 1:12 on the clock.
Martins Ferry started to find the range in the second quarter as senior Cody Schau, who entered the contest averaging 31, netted 10, but Evans canned another trey and sophomore Austin Kowalski connected twice from beyond the arc as Harrison Central had all the answers.
"We didn't play well from the start," Sabatino said, "and they did. When one team doesn't play very well and the other does, that's the result. It wasn't really a contest start to finish.
"They (Harrison Central) had been struggling shooting the ball by Coach Clifford's own admission, but did they shoot it well tonight. Most of them were from the perimeter. A lot of them were 3s. When a team shoots the ball that well, it's hard to beat them."
When the Purple Riders made their move in the second half, Watt, who missed last season with a knee injury, saddled the Huskies up and they rode him to the victory.
The 5-10 southpaw tickled the twine for 15 of his game-best counters in the second half - nine in the third panel - that kept the visitors at bay.
"That's the Fletch that we're used to," Clifford said of his veteran backcourter. "He played well tonight."
In addition to Watt's 23, other twin-figure scorers for the Huskies were Rashaen Mitchell and Pelegreen who evenly divided 20. Evans finished with nine and Kowalski eight.
Schau paced the Purple Riders with 22. Freshman Emilio Appolloni added a dozen before fouling out late in the game. Robert Vargo chipped in nine. Barritt was the only other player to score with five.
Martins Ferry held a commanding, 30-21, advantage on the glass as Vargo cleaned it 14 times. The 6-8 Appolloni had seven. Barritt charted five steals and a trio of assists.
Mitchell pulled down 10 boards for Harrison Central, which also received four steals by Kowalski and a like number of blocked shots by Mitchell.
After the barrage of early turnovers, Martins Ferry settled down and finished with 15, one more than Harrison Central.
The Purple Riders travel to Shadyside Friday night. The Huskies host Weir the same night.
In the JV game, Harrison Central made it a clean sweep.
MARTINS FERRY (48) - Schau 10 2-3 22; Vargo 4 1-2 9; Appolloni 5 2-2 12; Barritt 2 0-0 5; Sears 0 0-0 0; A. Burress 0 0-0 0; Totals: 21-54 5-6. HARRISON CENTRAL (64) - R. Mitchell 4 2-2 10; Pelegreen 3 2-4 10; Watt 10 2-2 23; K. Mitchell 1 0-0 2; Kowalski 2 2-4 8; Rutter 0 0-0 0; Evans 3 0-0 9; Olmstead 1 0-0 2; Totals: 24-37 8-12.
Three-Point Goals: Martins Ferry 1 (Barritt); Harrison Central 8 (Evans 3, Pelegreen 2, Kowalski 2, Watt)
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