MURPHYSBORO – Lotte Miller’s putback with two minutes remaining lifted No. 1 ranked Harrisburg to a 50-48 win over Murphysboro to clinch at least a share of its first River-to-River Ohio Division title in a girls basketball battle Monday Night at Memorial Gymnasium.
"We knew coming over here that this game was going to be like this, because we don’t particularly play well here" said Harrisburg coach Jake Stewart. "I told our kids to stay close in the second half and we would have a chance to win it. Murphysboro did a great job playing a junk defense that gave us some trouble."
Harrisburg (26-0, 8-0 Ohio) also tied the school record for wins with its 26th victory and improved to 8-0 in the conference with only two games remaining on the conference schedule against West Frankfort today and Herrin Thursday.
"My kids wanted to make history and played like it tonight," Stewart said.
"We can now win our first title outright and set the record for wins tomorrow night."
Harrisburg trailed the entire first half shooting just 5-of-24 from the field, including 2-of-11 from beyond the arc and only 4-of-9 from the line. However, in the second half the Lady Bulldogs found the range hitting 8-of-12 in the third quarter and 14-of-20 overall, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, and 4-of-5 at the line.
"We started off in a funky defense just looking to buy a couple quarters before they figured it out," said Murphysboro coach Keith Jones. "The third quarter was pretty obvious. I’m happy with the way we played because I don’t think we could have played any better with a chance to win late in the game. I wasn’t going to try to go for overtime against the No. 1 team in the state, so we drew up something for Arie Ciganovich and more often that not it falls our way."
Murphysboro (16-8, 6-2 Ohio) trailed by six early in the fourth quarter after leading by six in the first quarter. The Red Devils went on an 8-4 run ending with a Ciganovich 3-pointer to cut the lead to two with 3:17 remaining.
After Matty Hawkins split a pair of free throws to up the lead to three, Ciganovich was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all three of her free throws to tie the game at 48 with 2:15 remaining.
On the next possession, Miller pulled down a rebound and put the ball back up for the winning basket. Miller finished with nine points, three rebounds and a steal.
"My team came in here thinking we could just step out on the court and win it without a fight, but it turned out to be a dog fight," Miller said. "At halftime, I went into the locker team and told my team to calm down and keep your composure and stay in the game. If you don’t like the fouls and the calls being made just remain humble. What I like about my team is we know how to handle adversity and don’t freak out when we’re down. 26-0 and conference champs, I couldn’t ask for much more."
Murphysboro got the ball back with 33 seconds remaining, but Ciganovich’s 3-pointer from the left corner went off the rim. Ashely Jarrett got the rebound and her putback hit the side of the rim.
The Red Devils led the entire first half jumping out to a 7-1 lead and still holding a six-point margin until Harrisburg closed the gap to two on a pair of free throws by Hawkins with 32 seconds remaining and a layup by Lauren McDaniel with 9.3 seconds left.
Murphysboro extended its lead back to four at the 2:33 mark of the second quarter and held onto that margin at the half.
Hawkins opened the third quarter with a layup on the first possession. After the teams traded baskets Hawkins scored on a putback and Jessica Hopkins followed with her second of three 3-pointers from the left corner to give the Lady Bulldogs their first lead of the game, 28-27, with 5:21 remaining in the third quarter.
The Red Devils regained the lead on a jumper by Jarrett, but Hopkins canned her third three from the right side to get the lead back.
Kayla Walker tied the game 1:05 later on a contested layup. Miller and Walker then traded baskets to keep the score tied with 1:27 remaining in the third. Walker led the game with 20 points.
"What turned us around was our defense," Stewart said. "We also went down low a lot more giving Matty the ball making them sink on her before kicking back out. We made some key shots from the outside in the third quarter."