MURPHYSBORO – Harrisburg dominated the last third of the third quarter and the first half of the fourth to break open a two-point game at the half to beat Steeleville, 64-49, in the second game of the 15th Annual Ernie Bozarth Memorial Thanksgiving boys basketball tournament Monday.
"We weren’t consistent enough in the first half to sustain our runs, but it’s the first game out," said Harrisburg coach Randy Smithpeters. "We also had Isaiah Saulsberry and Blake Drue sitting on the bench in the first half with foul trouble and that dictated how the first half played out with Steeleville making a run."
In the first game played in St. Louis North Tech beat Roosevelt, 55-52. The third game of opening day saw the host Red Devils beat Lovejoy, 57-41, with Jeremy House leading with 27 points and five 3-pointers, including four in the first half. The tournament continues tonight with Murphysboro playing Roosevelt at 7:30 p.m.
Senior guard Saulsberry led the Bulldogs with 23 points and seven rebounds with senior forward Dalton Lambert scoring a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
"Early in the first half we didn’t play to our advantage, but in the second half we picked it up when we started to move the ball more and scoring off transition, which is our style of play," Saulsberry said.
The Bulldogs forced 16 Steeleville turnovers, including seven in the first quarter and five in the fourth quarter, with Will Gibbs leading with three steals
"Our press is one that is hard to prepare for, hard to adjust to, and its one that wears on you over 32 minutes," Smithpeters said. "I think that’s how it operated tonight."
Harrisburg held a two-point lead at the half and extended it to eight in the first two and a half minutes of the third, but the Warriors cut it back to three with 2:59 remaining in the third quarter on a basket by Owen Gross, a 3-pointer by Mel Mulholland and a jumper by Nic Ebers. Gross led the game with 26 points.
"They are a really good team," said Steeleville coach Aaron Fiene. "They got after us pretty good. We had our opportunities, but I didn’t prepare them enough for some of the pressure they did. I wanted to get the ball inside more, but they took that away. We had to try to get something moving towards the basket as apposed to passing it in. We’ll improve as the year goes."
A minute later Jordan Bartok was sent to the line and split a pair of free throws. Lambert followed with a bucket from underneath the basket. After Gross sank a jumper Carson Burtis drained a 3-pointer and Saulsberry scored on a putback to give the Bulldogs a 9-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
After the break the Bulldogs took up where they left off with Lambert making a three-point play on a basket and a foul shot. Bartok followed with another three-point play. Saulsberry then stole the ball and scored to up the lead to 16 with 5:24 remaining.
The Warriors had one last run in them cutting the lead in half over the next 1:17 with Gross and Bradley Mevert making two free throws each. Gross then hit a streaking Gavin Conway for a fast break layup and followed with jumper of his own to cut the lead down to eight with 4:07 remaining.
However, that was as close as the Warriors could get as the Bulldogs went on a 13-4 run over that next three minutes to extend the lead to 17 with 35 seconds remaining.
Steeleville got off to a fast start starting with Eli Wittenborn grabbing the rebound on his missed free throw and putting it back in. Noah Valleroy and Gross followed with fast break layups to take a 6-0 lead 1:17 into the game.
Harrisburg shook off the rust and exploded back going on a 19-2 run to take an 11-point lead. During the run Saulsberry and Lambert canned back-to-back 3-pointers and Burtis ended it with a 3-pointer 13 seconds into the second quarter.
Steeleville fought back going on a 12-2 run to cut the lead to one point with 3:22 remaining in the first half. Gross got hot during the run making three baskets and two free throws.
Harrisburg stopped the run and extended its lead back to four points on two free throws and a layup by Will Gibbs, but a jumper two free throws by Gross tied the score at 24 with 1:04 remaining.
Bartok scored on a fast break to regain the lead for Harrisburg. Steeleville had a chance to tie the score with 48 seconds left, but Valleroy missed two free throw attempts to leave the Bulldogs up by two at the half.