By Mike Aldridge, Sports writer
Some years, beating Augusta High School in basketball wasn’t such a big deal, but lately, under Coach Jason Hinson, the Panthers are a force to be reckoned with in 10th Region basketball.
That fact makes the Harrison County Thorobreds’ 75-68 win over Augusta Saturday night in the third place game of the Mike Murphy Classic even more important.
The way the Thorobreds accomplished the feat was also important as they played more as a team with a 32-minute effort.
The Breds advanced to the third place game by first defeating Cooper High School of the Ninth Region, 54-42, in Wednesday night’s opening game for Harrison County in the tournament.
This game, while a victory, was not a masterpiece as the Harrison County squad played the first half with little enthusiasm and trailed a not very good Jaguar team by 23-19 at the end of the first half.
Coach Larry Kendall challenged his team during the halftime intermission to play harder and more as a team.
The message was received on this night as the Thorobreds came out to score the first five points and take a 24-23 lead as the third quarter began.
Cooper then scored five unanswered points to forge ahead but the Thorobreds countered to maintain the one-point advantage.
The strangely played quarter continued in the same form as once again the two teams put together five-point runs swapping the lead until the third period ended with Harrison County leading 34 to 33.
The fourth quarter unfolded with the two teams exchanging baskets until the Breds rolled out seven unanswered points to take a 44-37 lead.
Cooper cut into the lead at 47-42 with just under three minutes remaining but the Thorobreds did something they had not done this season to secure a win.
They made their free throws coming down the stretch and pulled out the 12-point win.
Grant Carr and D.J. Jenkins combined for 10 of 11 free throws during this stretch as the Breds, who were shooting 59 percent as a team made 13 of 16 for the game.
Jenkins led the Breds with 22 points followed by Dillon Pulliam who added 13.
Cooper fell to 2-3 after the loss while the Breds evened their record to 3-3. Cooper finished seventh of the eight teams in the Classic.
Friday night the Thorobreds did not show up until late in the third period as they lost to Russell County of Region Four 69-63.
The Lakers, coached by Willie Feldhaus, improved to 6-1 with this win but finished the tournament 6-2 as they lost the championship to Mason County Saturday night.
Harrison County had four turnovers to go with four of 14 shooting in the first period as the Lakers rolled out to a 15-9 first quarter advantage.
The Lakers were not setting the nets on fire themselves but senior guard Alex Turner made three of three from beyond the arc to score nine points in the opening period.
Harrison County’s defensive effort allowed the 6-foot-2 Turner to take wide open shots which he made during the first quarter.
The second quarter performance for Harrison County was worse than the first quarter as they made only six points in the period.
The Breds made only three of 13 shots from the field and were zero for five from behind the arc.
Meanwhile the undefended Russell County team was making seven of 14 and was perfect from the three-point line hitting two for two as they pulled out to a 29-15 half time lead.
For the first half, both teams had seven turnovers and Russell County out rebounded the Breds by a 17-to-14 margin.
The Thorobreds came roaring back late in the third period and into the fourth but could not catch Russell County.
In the second half the Breds were 20 for 42 from the field and began to defend the Lakers much more aggressively especially in the fourth quarter. Harrison County was led in this game in scoring by Jenkins with 18 followed by Trenton Thompson who had 13 and Pulliam who scored 12.
Kendall was impressed with the Russell County team’s play.
“They played very smart basketball,” he observed. “We came out flat and didn’t defend and they took advantage of it.” Freshman Kel Stotts led Russell County in scoring with 20 points and Turner pitched in 19 while senior Blake Ellis added 15 points.
Augusta came into the Saturday evening third place game with an 8-1 record and the 10th Region’s best player in senior guard Brent Bach. The 6-foot-2 scoring machine scored 33 points in the Friday loss to Mason County despite not having his best shooting night. Bach usually gets a lot of support from fellow senior Conner Maddox and sophomore Camryn Snapp as the Panthers are one of the top teams in the region.
Saturday night the Thorobreds put together their best effort of the young season as they came out on all cylinders and while still shooting some poor shots played well overall.
Harrison County used their size advantage to out rebound the Panthers by a 31-19 margin in the first half as they rolled to a 32 to 25 halftime lead. Senior Dillon Pulliam had 16 points and nine rebounds at the half while junior Thompson had eight points and five boards.
The Thorobreds Jenkins, who was saddled with two early fouls, came out in the second half and hit six of seven from the field and eight of 12 free throws down the stretch to score 20 of his 22 points in the second half as the Breds expanded their lead while fighting off the determined Panthers.
Harrison County led by a 47 to 38 margin at the end of the third period and the Panthers were never closer than four points for the remainder of the game.
Bach led all scorers with 33 points though he was just two of seven from the three-point line. Sophomore Jovon Williams and senior Carr harassed Bach for the game making him earn every point.
Snapp scored 16 points for the Panthers and Maddox added 12. The Thorobreds had outstanding scoring performances from three players.
Pulliam and Jenkins both scored 22 points while Thompson added 21.
Both Pulliam and Thompson had double doubles as Pulliam pulled down 12 rebounds and Thompson grabbed 10. Turnovers plagued the Thorobreds again as they turned the ball over 18 times to only 10 for Augusta.
“We played better,” shared the ball and played defense tonight, observed Coach Larry Kendall. “Jovon and Grant did a good job on Bach despite the fact that he scored 33 points.”
The Breds evened their season mark at 4-4 with their next game set for Thursday at 7:30 with Lexington Catholic at the Republic Bank Holiday Classic in the Bueter Gym in Lexington Catholic High School.