They controlled the tempo, they played solid man-to-man defense throughout, they hit clutch free throws, they did all the little things correctly and, as a result, the Harrison County Fillies now find themselves one win away from another 38th District basketball title.
On Monday night, Harrison County squandered a 10-point lead late in the third quarter, didn’t score their first points of the fourth quarter until 30 seconds were left in the game, and still held on for a hard-fought and well-earned, 34-30 victory over Pendleton County.
Three weeks ago, Harrison County bused north to Falmouth and was embarrassed by the Lady Cats, 53-38.
“We looked at the tape of that loss in early February and our defense was worse than terrible,” said Harrison County coach Jason Crisp. “They made a ton of three-pointers, but they were wide open looks… We didn’t have anybody close to their shooters.”
At that point, Crisp knew that playing a zone defense against the Lady Cats was not going to work.
“We scouted them several times after we knew we were going to play them in the district and decided that we had to play them man-to-man. They didn’t change anything that they did over the last three weeks so we knew exactly what they would try to run against us. Our girls did a great job of listening, learning and implementing what we wanted to do defensively.”
Offensively, Harrison County was more efficient than they have been all season. Sloppy ball-handling turnovers were minimized, bad shot selection was eliminated and every possession became important.
Brittany Murphy carried the Harrison County offense early, scoring nine points in the first quarter as Harrison County opened up a 15-6 lead, until Pendleton County scored just before the first quarter buzzer sounded to cut the margin to 15-8.
In the second quarter, the pace slowed considerably, but the Fillies led 22-14 at intermission.
It was more of the same in the third period with Harrison leading 30-23 when the quarter ended.
Pendleton County slowly chipped away at the lead in the fourth period and pulled even after a long three-pointer was converted to tie the score at 30 with less than two minutes to play.
Harrison County finally scored its first points of the quarter with just 30 seconds left, when Lorraine Dennie stroked a pair of clutch free throws to make it 32-30.
After a Pendleton County miss, Murphy was fouled and hit two more equally important charity tosses with 22 seconds left that iced the game.
“I was really proud of the way Lorraine and Brittany stepped up there and knocked down those free throws,” said Crisp. “There was a tremendous amount of pressure on both of those girls and neither one of them flinched.”
Murphy finished with 14 points to lead Harrison County. Dennie and Charley Hatfield both had eight and Kaitlin Johnson chipped in with four.
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Harrison County will play Deming tonight for the district championship.
Deming overcame an eight-point deficit with one minute to play to snatch an unlikely victory from Nicholas County.
Nicholas County led 44-36 with just over a minute left in the game, but was unable to convert from the free throw stripe, missing six charity tosses in a row inside the last minute.
Trailing 44-42, Deming’s Chelsea Fryman was fouled while driving to the basket with just two seconds to play. She made the first toss, missed the second, but grabbed her own rebound and threw up a desperation shot in traffic that bounced around the rim and fell through, just before the buzzer sounded.
The 45-44 final score was the only lead Deming had all night.