By D.J. WATSON
NH Sports Writer
CADIZ – The Harrison Central Huskies are red hot on the hardwood right now, and that 63-55 loss to Martins Ferry in early December is starting to feel a lot like it happened a lifetime ago. The reason that may be is likely because the Huskies have gone perfect since rattling off six consecutive victories to land at 7-1 on the season. After dismantling Indian Creek 70-47 over the holiday break, the Huskies were paid a rare visit from an Eastern Buckeye Conference school in the Minerva Lions last weekend in Cadiz.
A raucous Stephenson Center Crowd went on to send the Lions back northward with a 66-48 defeat in hand. Topping off the frenzy of recent roundball action, the Huskies completed the season sweep of Bellaire, traveling to the All-American Town and dropping the Big Reds 85-41.
As predicted by many, things are beginning to fall in place for the Huskies and their fanbase to have a very exciting second half of the season in 2019. First place in the OVAC Class 4A standings, and locked in a three-way tie for first in the Buckeye Eight South Division standings, things couldn’t get much better for Head Coach Justin Clifford’s unit as they near the midpoint of their schedule. Gavin Muckle, Kobe Mitchell, and Caden Dalton all teamed up to drain Creek. Muckle scored game-high honors with 23-points, Mitchell followed that up with 18, and Dalton had a resourceful night popping the board for 16. It was a matchup that was never really close, as Harrison jumped out to a commanding lead with Muckle and Mitchell combining for 18 first quarter points, enough to put the home squad up 22-9 at the end of one.
The blitz continued into the second, as the Huskies posted a 37-20 lead at the break. Payton Taylor, Tyler West, Cruz Capers and Evan Stine also lit the lamp against the Redskins.
Against the Lions, Mitchell picked up two early fouls and had to sit the majority of the first frame. Foul trouble and a scoreless opening eight minutes couldn’t keep down one of the Valley’s leading scorers however, as the sophomore still managed to toss in 28-tallies, including a stellar fourth quarter performance that totaled 13-points. It was a balanced scoring attack that kept the Huskies high powered offense moving along in the early going, with Dalton, Taylor, Stine, and West all tickling the twine to open up a 16-9 lead after one. The Lions (2-8) kept pace with the Huskies (7-1) through most of the first half, reaching halftime trailing by only ten at 29-19.
Brice Williams kept his Minerva team in it, rattling home 12 of his 21-points in the first half. Gavin Muckle converted on a long range 3-point field goal on Harrison’s last first half possession. Minerva then elected to dribble out nearly a minute of the first half clock in hopes of getting the last crack at the rim before the break. The strategy backfired as they came up empty handed when the buzzer sounded.
In the second half, Minerva did just enough to keep Clifford and the Huskies from getting too comfortable. The visitors had fought down to a 38-30 deficit in the third, before Stine let his presence be known in the paint with a put-back to his own bunny that pushed Harrison back up by double digits. The final nail came down when Dalton hit Mitchell on a fast break that drew the whistle, after Mitchell’s successful free throw the Huskies were up 15 with under two minutes to play.
Muckle was the only other Harrison player to dial up the double digits, as he poured in 12-marks to complement Mitchell’s 28. The trio of Stine (8), Dalton (7) and Taylor (7) rounded out the leaders against the Lions.
This past Tuesday the Huskies travelled to the “House of Champions” along the river and completely blew by the Bellaire Big Reds. The contest went much like the season opening tip did in Cadiz back in December. A one-sided affair to say the least, the out-manned Bellaire unit dropped the season series to the Huskies by a combined 108 points. Mitchell again earned game-high honors, even with limited floor time. A big lead in hand, Clifford had many of the Harrison starters rotating in and out right after halftime, but that didn’t stop Mitchell from polishing the rim for 31-points. Three other Huskies scratched the book for double digits. Evan Stine continued his midseason breakout, finishing with 16. Muckle registered a smooth-as- always 13-points, and Dalton rounded up the group of leaders with 11. John Vermillion (5) led the host of other Harrison players that contributed in the blowout victory. Sam Santile (4), Skylar Mazeroski and Zane VanCamp picked up a bucket each, and Payton Taylor (1) were the other scorers.
Gridlocked in a re-building year, the Big Reds were led by Jacob Marthaler with 11-points, and AJ McCarthy with 10. The Huskies have a chance to close their grip on the Buckeye Eight South and avenge their only loss this weekend, as the Martins Ferry Purple Riders will come to town Friday night.
Another big matchup at St. Clairsville is slated for the 15th, and a return trip from the Union Local Jets is on tap for Jan. 18.