Watt hits game-winner as Huskies nip Panthers

Harrison Central’s Fletcher Watt has been playing longer than some coaches have been coaching, so it is no wonder that Watt is the go-to guy for the Huskies.

Watt drove the lane with just four seconds remaining to score the game-winner as the Huskies pulled out a thrilling 38-36 win over Buckeye Local on the Panther boards in Connorville Tuesday night.

With the win, coach Justin Clifford’s Huskies improved to 8-2 on the season and successfully rebounded from a heartbreaking loss to St. Clairsville last Friday. Clifford’s crew in back in action this Friday playing host to Edison.

Coach Jay Morris’ Panthers’ tough loss dropped them to 4-6 on the season. Buckeye in on the road to face Bellaire on Friday, then travels to Weirton on Saturday.

“For whatever reason, we haven’t shot well all season except for a couple games,” a emotionally drained Coach Clifford said following Tuesday’s nail-bitter.

“You have to give Buckeye credit. They kept changing defenses on us, but you hold a team to 36 points, you give yourself a shot.

“Fletcher is a four-year player and he is the guy that the other players look to come through with the big play,” Clifford added. “They (Buckeye) did a good job on him in the first half. I don’t know how he got the shot to go in, but Fletch has a way of making bad shots look like good shots.”

Buckeye jumped out to a 12-3 lead in the first period, outscoring the Huskies by 10-1 after being deadlocked at 2-2. Brennen Czuchran led the Panthers in the opening session with seven points and three boards while John Rozenek tossed in four.

In the second frame, scoring slowed as the Panthers managed to hold on to a 20-9 lead at the intermission. The hosts led by 20-5 before Watt and Nick Pelegreen scored back-to back in the final minute.

Harrison rallied to close the gap to 29-21 in the third. Pelegreen converted three shots from the floor to lead the Huskies.

In the exciting fourth frame, Rasheen Mitchell converted at the line then meshed a trey to cut the gap to 29-26 at the 6:10 mark. Buckeye bounced back as Kyle Michalo added one at the stripe and Czuchran cashed a layup. Watt netted two at the line and a three-pointer around a John Rozenek score at the line as the hosts led 33-31.

With an assist from Caleb Agnew, Michalo drained a three, but seconds later, Austin Kowalski converted underneath to close the gap to 36-33. With 45 seconds left, Cody Evans took his first and only shot of the game and drained a three-pointer from the right corner to knot the score.

A Buckeye turnover set up Harrison’s last attempt. Watt drove the left side of the lane, bouncing off defender to lay in his game-winner. After a timeout, Buckeye’s hopes for a buzzer-beater glanced just off the rim as the horn sounded.

“Good defense makes a great offense,” the talented Watt said after the game while looking back on the Huskies’ ability to overcome their scoring struggles.

Watt added that his game-winner wasn’t a set play, but one that gave him the opportunity and he took it. “We just put a lot of pressure on defenses and the offense goes from there.”

Watt and Mitchell paced the Huskies with 11 points each while Pelegreen added nine. Mitchell finished with nine rebounds and seven blocked shots while Pelegreen collared eight strays.

Buckeye’s Czuchran led all scorers with 13 markers while Michalo added 10. Rozenek led the Panthers with nine rebounds.

“My kids battled hard throughout the entire game,” a dejected coach Morris said after the tough loss. “It all came down to them (Harrison) taking their first lead on their final shot.

“You could just tell by the way the game was going that the game was going to come down to the last possession,” Morris added. “But what really hurt us was our foul shooting in the second half. When you hold a team to 38 points, you give yourself a good chance to win.”

In the jayvee encounter, the Huskies rallied from an early deficit to pull out a 44-36 win.