CARTERVILLE – In a 13-win season, pretty doesn’t count.
Carterville was ragged at times. The Lions nearly squandered a nine-point third quarter lead, but played tough at gut-check time to earn a 56-49 non-conference win over Harrisburg.
“I think the biggest part is you want your seniors to go out in the last game at home with a win,” said Carterville coach Shane Hawkins. “You don’t care how it looks or how pretty it is, but this is something they’ll remember. When they come back in the gym, whether it’s two years, five years or 25 years, they’ll remember they won on Senior Night, and that’s big.”
Harrisburg trailed just 38-35 entering the fourth quarter, but managed to slice the lead to a single point early in the fourth. Andrew Bittle corralled a loose ball that had been batted around several times to score from close range to pull the Bulldogs to within 42-41 with 4:57 to play.
However, Carterville answered quickly.
Dylan Moore scored on a strong move to the bucket and after a stop on the defensive end Austin Barbe added another bucket. Harrisburg sliced the lead to four points on one other occasion, but the Lions slowly pulled away in the final three minutes.
For Harrisburg, the Bulldogs endured a disastrous start, missing eight layups in the first quarter alone. The Bulldogs missed their first four shots, all from point blank range.
“We needed to get off to a better start,” said Harrisburg coach Randy Smithpeters. “I thought that was important tonight. We talked about that being important, setting the tone. We didn’t set the tone mostly because of missed shots. Missed baskets … I don’t think we could have had better shots and opportunities. They just didn’t go in.”
And, in the final quarter when Harrisburg battled back the Bulldogs were stymied by unforced mistakes.
“How many passes did we throw up in the stands and nobody touched,” Smithpeters said. “You can’t get over the hump like that.”
Carterville placed four players in double figures. Moore led the way with 13, Luke Stritzel and Garbe each had a dozen and Tyler Bittle had 10.
Darion Barners came off the bench to score 13 for Harrisburg.
“He’s kind of a playground type player, strong,” Smithpeters said. “In a fairly physical game like this I thought it was a good setting for him. I thought he would come out and help us.”
Bittle added 12 for Harrisburg and Will Gibbs had 10.
In the meantime, 6-foot-4 sophomore Eli Downen will miss the remainder of the season with a broken bone in his hand. Hawkins said the injury occurred during the Sparta game.
“He’s playing really well,” Hawkins said. “He’s been really good for us down the stretch. He’s been really good since the Eldorado tournament when he got used to what we do and established himself as a really good offensive player. You hate it when kids get hurt and don’t get to finish their season. Thankfully for him, he’s not a senior.”
Carterville 56, Harrisburg 49
Harrisburg (49) – Hayes 1 2-2 4, Gibbs 3 4-4 10, Sanders 3 3-4 9, Bittle 4 2-2 12, Lawler 0 0-0 0, Barners 5 3-3 13, Brombaugh 0 1-2 1. Totals 16 15-17 49.
Carterville (56) – Moore 4 5-8 13, Stritzel 5 2-3 12, Kroese 1 0-0 2, Bittle 2 6-6 10, Anderson 1 0-0 2, Garbe 6 0-1 12, Pearson 1 2-4 5. Totals 20 15-22 56.
3-point goals – Harrisburg 2 (Bittle). Carterville 1 (Pearson). Team fouls – Harrisburg 19, Carterville 16. Fouled out – Barners, Lawler, Anderson. Technical foul -- Sanders. Records – Harrisburg is 6-21. Carterville is 13-16.