WEST FRANKFORT — Harrisburg withstood a furious fourth-quarter run by West Frankfort to claim a 56-52 win in the Class 2A regional title game.
The Bulldogs took a 48-39 lead into the final eight minutes. West Frankfort created four turnovers in the first four minutes and went on a 11-2 run, tying the game at 50-50 on Morgan Griffith’s runout with 3:57 to play.
Harrisburg’s Matty Hawkins broke the tie with a short jumper, and Harrisburg never relinquished the lead. The Bulldogs defeated West Frankfort three times in four meetings.
“We knew they would (make a run),” said Harrisburg coach Jake Stewart. “They’re at home. They’re a well-coached team and they have a first-team all-stater (Griffith). We wouldn’t expect anything less than for them to make a run at us.”
“We knew that was a run we needed to put on them,” said West Frankfort coach Matt Hampleman. “What ends up happening, we just didn’t execute and didn’t do the things we needed to, make the free throws, hit the three. Again, it’s nobody’s fault, it’s just basketball.”
The Redbirds were in control in the first quarter, leading by nine points on a couple of occasions. Griffth scored 14 of her 26 points in the first quarter.
Harrisburg went to a box-and-one in the second quarter with Jess Hopson guarding Griffith. Hopson made it difficult for Griffith to catch the ball, holding her to 12 points over the final three quarters.
“That’s actually new,” Stewart said. “We saw Du Quoin do something like that last night. I really liked it. You have to do something against a player like Griffith. The first half we gave (Cali) Wright too many points. If Griffith is going to get hers, you have to shut everyone else down. I thought we did a good job of that the second half.
“Jess is our best defender. She’s tall and she understands the game. She understood how to guard Griffith up at the free throw line, and when she cut down she really did a good job of denying her the ball.”
Griffith was held scoreless in the second quarter, but Wright scored 13 of her 20 points in the first half. The teams were deadlocked at 31 at intermission.
“We’ve seen a box-and-one all year long, a triangle-and-two on her all year long,” Hampleman said. “After you play someone for the third and fourth time, you start to get tendencies down. My gosh, I don’t know what else we could have done to get her the basketball.
“And, we got her the basketball in places she could score, and it just didn’t happen tonight. You can’t fault her, they’re playing themselves to where they can’t even stand up anymore.”
The third quarter proved to be the difference in the game as Harrisburg outscored the Redbirds 17-9. Hopson and Matty Hawkins each had six points in the quarter.
Griffith and Wright provided the bulk of West Frankfort’s offense with 26 and 20 points. Hawkins led Harrisburg with 20, Karsyn Davis had 16 and Hopson 14.
The Bulldogs advance to the Johnston City Sectional.