The Harrison County Thorobreds were unable to hang on to a five-point lead inside the last two minutes, and lost its opening-round game to Montgomery County on Saturday in the 10th Region Tournament at the Bank of Kentucky Center.
Harrison County survived some early game jitters and managed to work its way to a 51-46 lead with 1:45 left in the game, but saw three straight empty trips seal its doom in a 55-52 loss.
“You never want to end the season with a difficult loss, but that will happen to every team in the state but one,” said HCHS coach Mike Reitz. “This group of players have been a joy to be around all year. They have worked hard in practice and games and gotten along well with each other.”
Montgomery County jumped ahead with an 8-0 spurt to start the game, as Harrison County struggled against the Indian’s tight man-to-man defense.
Senior guard Eric Case jump-started the slumbering Harrison County offense with five straight points mid-way through the period, and Harrison County trailed just 14-13 after one quarter.
In the second quarter, Montgomery County threatened to pull away, leading by 10 at one time, but the Breds stayed within striking distance, trailing 28-21 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Harrison County found its stride offensively. Malcolm Thomas got out on the break and scored a pair of easy baskets. Ryan Puckett, Fonze Custard and Case each knocked down three-pointers and Harrison County turned a seven-point deficit into a two-point lead.
Harrison County maintained its lead through most of the fourth quarter. Custard’s three-pointer with just under three minutes remaining, gave the Breds a 47-42 lead.
After the two teams traded baskets, Harrison County led 51-46 with two minutes remaining when a drive to the basket by John Michael Reitz came up empty.
Montgomery County’s Cody Curtis then hit a clutch three-pointer to narrow the margin to 51-49.
After another Harrison County miss, Azrey Crisp hit a basket to tie the game at 51. On the next possession, Harrison County turned the ball over at mid court and Brandon Rash hit the lay up to give the Indians a 53-51 lead, with less than a minute to play.
Malcolm Thomas hit a free throw to narrow the margin to 53-52. After a pair of missed free throws by Montgomery County, Harrison County’s Custard had a chance to give his team the lead from the charity stripe.
With just over 24 seconds to play, Custard’s toss rimmed. Crisp hit a pair of free throws to give the Indians a 55-52 lead. With nine seconds to play, Harrison County had two chances to tie the game, but both of Custard’s three point attempts missed the mark.
“Teams like Montgomery County gave us problems all year,” said Reitz after the game of the brawny Indians. “We match up better with a team like Mason County, which is hard to believe. I think we were something like 0-6 this year against teams just like Montgomery County… bigger, thicker, stronger teams that like to grind it out in the half court. But again, our effort was there, we just came up a little short.”
Thomas scored nine of his team-high 15 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Breds. He also pulled down eight rebounds. Case finished with 13 and Custard ended with 12. Puckett chipped in with seven and Reitz added five for the Breds scoring.
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Harrison County ended its season with a 17-14 record and Montgomery County advanced to the tournament semi-finals where they were swamped by Mason County, 75-45. The Indians finished the year with a record of 14-16.
Mason County survived a shaky first half in the title game with Clark County, trailing by nine points at halftime, 24-15. The defending state champions earned another trip to Rupp Arena with a strong second half, eventually winning, 50-43.