CADIZ - Harrison Central assistant coach Mark Kowalski relayed a special message to Huskies head coach Justin Clifford as he gave his postgame remarks Thursday night.
''That's the first time we've beaten St. Clairsville in seven years,'' Kowalski said. ''Almost seven years to the day.''
Clifford smiled, then went about his comments.
The magnitude of the night's 42-39 boys' basketball verdict wasn't lost on Clifford. Yes, the win snapped the program's losing skid against their Buckeye 8 rivals. And, yes, the win gave him his first victory against his dad, Kim. First and foremost, though, the triumph was just that, a triumph; one he hopes will boost his team as tournament time approaches.
''It's not about me or my dad,'' he said. ''It's about the kids that play the game.
''I think the kids felt more pressure trying to get this for me. Now that it's over, we can just go back to being (Buckeye 8) rivals. It's nice to do it, but it's about the kids that made the plays.''
Kim Clifford agreed.
''I'm happy for him,'' he said smiling. ''I'm happy for him because he's my son, but I still would've liked to have won the game.''
Down the stretch, Dalton Rutter and Austin Kowalski came up big for the Huskies (9-8). Kowalski was 5 of 6 from the line en route to a team-high 13 points and Rutter was 2-for-2 during the final 3:29.
''Austin had been struggling from the free throw line, but he's our foul shooter and we put the game in his hands,'' Justin Clifford said. ''Look how smart I am now? he makes me look smart.''
Dustin Redish stole the ball and went in for a layup with 6:35 left in the game to give Harrison Central a 33-37 lead.
Brendan Ferns responded with a jumper in the lane to bring St. Clairsville (10-9) to within four at 33-29. Moments later, Jared Derosa dropped in a jumper off glass making the score 33-31.
Kalub Mitchell gave the Huskies some breathing room at the 4:25 mark with a layup that made the score 35-31, but Derosa answered with a trey making the score 35-34.
After Kowalski's first free throw made the score 36-34 with 3:29 left, Derosa canned his second 3 of the period, giving the Red Devils a 37-36 advantage.
Nate Olmstead misfired on the other end for the Huskies, but Rutter was fouled on the rebound with 2:16 left. He made both free throws making the score 38-37.
Following a St. Clairsville time out, Derosa missed a jumper and Kowalski was fouled moments later with 59.5 ticks left. His two free throws made the score 40-37.
Patrick Buchanan trimmed the deficit to one, 40-39, with a jumper in the lane with 21.9 left and then St. C. called time. Kowalski was fouled coming out of the stoppage and, again, made both free throws, making the score 42-39.
Daniel Trouten's 3-point attempt from the right baseline missed as time expired.
''We thought maybe we could get a screen, get someone caught in a switch,'' Kim Clifford said. ''But (Harrison Central) switched really well and they covered it.
''The game basically came down to the last two possessions.''
The Red Devils battled back from an early seven-point deficit to tie the game twice in the second period. The Huskies harassed St. C.'s inside game and didn't allow a Red Devils field goal until the 5:46 mark of the second.
''Gosh did we defend,'' Justin Clifford said. ''We defended about as well as anyone could.''
Still, the Huskies couldn't shake the Red Devils, who trailed by as many as eight in the third.
''I was happy with how the kids gutted it out and came back,'' Kim Clifford said. ''But they were able to make the plays (down the stretch).''
Redish finished with 10 for the Huskies.
Derosa and Buchanan both paced the Red Devils with eight points.
St. Clairsville won the junior varsity game, 52-37.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE (39) - Trouten 1, 3-5 6; Derosa 3, 0-1 8; Coleman 1, 0-0 3; Giffin 0, 2-2 2; Ferns 3, 0-5 6; Panepucci 0, 0-0 0; Buchanan 3, 2-2 8; Scarnecchia 3, 0-0 6. Totals 14, 7-15 39. HARRISON CENTRAL (42) - K.Mitchell 3, 1-1 7; Kowalski 3, 6-7 13; B.Mitchell 0, 0-0 0; Rutter 0, 2-2 2; Redish 5, 0-2 10; Evans 1, 0-0 3; Yoho 1, 1-2 4; Olmstead 1, 0-0 3. Totals 14, 10-14 42.
3-Point Goals: Derosa 2, Coleman, Trouten; Kowalski, Evans, Yoho, Olmstead.