Braving all the wintry elements, neighboring rivals Buckeye Local and Harrison Central met for the second time this season and sent no one home expecting more excitement as the Huskies held of a determined Panther squad in notching a 69-57 win on the John Stephenson Center boards in Cadiz Friday night.
Back on January 8, the two teams went head-to-head at Connorville in a game that wasn't decided until the final four seconds on a Fletcher Watt bucket. The Huskies won that game by 38-36.
Justin Clifford's Harrison Central crew was coming off a loss to St. Clairsville earlier in the week and bounced back well to boost their record to 13-5 on the season. The Huskies travel to Edison on Tuesday and will have one make-up game with Martins Ferry on the road.
Friday's win was a big one for the Huskies. Harrison Central is currently sitting in third place in the rugged OVAC Class 4-A race behind Steubenville and St. Clairsville.
Jay Morris' Panthers dropped to 8-9 on the season with the tough loss and will be looking at a three-game week coming up. They host Bellaire on Tuesday, Weir on Friday and St. Clairsville in a matinee game on Saturday.
"You have to give Buckeye a lot of credit, they played very well tonight," Clifford said after the win. "We came in on an emotional high with Senior Night, but once we got set we went on that 22-0 run played much better."
"We played very well (against St. Clairsville), but just didn't score enough and we couldn't practice this week with guys being sick and with injuries," Clifford pointed out. "But that's no excuse. Everybody has the same problems."
Clifford praised the effort of his players in both games this week. "I would never fault them for their effort," he said.
Harrison jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a bucket by Nick Pelegreen, a trey by Austin Kowalski and a bucket by Kaleb Mitchell off a nice feed from Fletcher Watt. The lead was short-lived as Buckeye followed that with an 18-2 run that pushed the Panthers to an 18-9 lead.
Junior standout Brennen Czuchran led the outburst with a trio of three-pointers, while Kyle Michalo added seven points. Watt scored at the buzzer stopped the Panther spurt and close the first frame with the Panthers leading by 18-11.
Taking the lead from Watt's closing score, the Huskies exploded the second frame added 22 straight points that put them back on top at 31-18.
Watt scored eight in the 20-point run and Rasheen Mitchell, Pelegreen and Kowalski added the rest. After Buckeye's Tommy Hamilton scored the first second period points for the visitors, Buckeye was able to cut the margin to 34-28 at the intermission.
Buckeye pulled to within 38-34 early in the third, but Kowalski and Watt drained back-to-back threes and Kowalski converted two at the line to extend the lead to 46-34. The winners led by 51-42 at the final break.
"I'm happy that we were able to bounce back from that 22-0 run that they went on, but they (Harrison Central) shot very well and battled," Morris said after the tough loss. "It was their senior night and they were playing on their floor and that made them even better.
Kowalski and Watt led the Huskies in scoring with 22 points apiece. The pair combined to convert 14 of 15 at the line. Rasheen Mitchell and Pelegreen also came through with a double digit effort tossing in 11 each.
Mitchell also collared six rebounds.
Czuchran completed one of best scoring efforts of the season with 24 game-high points. Michalo tossed in 17 and Rozenek closed the night with nine. Czuchran also grabbed nine of his team's 28 rebounds while Rozenek latched onto seven.
In the jayvee matchup, Dustin Reddish tossed in 14 points and Cory Yoho added 11 as the Huskies registered a 41-32 win. Mike Carducci led the Panthers with nine. Varsity scoring:
HARRISON CENTRAL (69) K. Mitchell 1, 0-2 2; Kowalski 5, 8-8 22; Rutter 0, 0-0 0; Watt 6, 6-7 22; Evans 0, 1-2 1; R. Mitchell 5, 1-4 11; Pelegreen 5, 1-1 11. Totals, 22-44, 17-24. BUCKEYE LOCAL (57) Marshall, 0-0 0; Czuchran 9, 0-0 24; Agnew 1, 1-2 3; Williams 0, 0-0 0; Duncan 1, 0-0 2; Rozenek 2, 4-5 9; Michalo 7, 2-2 17; Hamilton 1, 0-0 2. Totals, 21-52, 7-9.
Three-point goals: Harrison Central (8) Kovalski, 4; Watt, 4. Buckeye Local (8) Czuchran, 6; Rozenek, 1; Michalo, 1.