Harrison drops opener to SCC, 76-60

CADIZ — As well as Harrison Central played in the first 16 minutes Friday night, the Huskies played that bad in the final 16.

Visiting Steubenville Catholic rallied from a 14-point deficit midway through the second quarter to post a 76-60 triumph inside the John W. Stephenson Center in a mutual boys’ basketball season-opener.

“They had a couple of guys that made some plays … made some big shots,” Harrison Central head coach Justin Clifford said. “Everybody kept asking me how we were going to be? That’s how we’re going to be, up and down. Until we get some basketball sense and some awareness to us, that’s on me, that’s what is going to keep happening.”

Despite some early foul troubles that had a trio of starters sitting beside him in the first quarter, Clifford watched his team shot 55 percent from the floor in bolting to leads of 21-16 after one quarter and 40-34 at the half as the bench scored 19.

“We’re going to play a bunch of people,” Clifford explained. “When we can get the ball out and run it up the court, we’re not bad. We just went into a little bit of a funk there and they took advantage of it.”

However, the Huskies couldn’t have thrown a beach ball in the ocean from the pier in the second half as they meshed just 7 of 25 attempts, including 3-for-15 in the final quarter.

The momentum swung in the Crusaders’ favor in the waning seconds of the third period. With the visitors already on an 8-3 run to end the quarter, a Harrison Central player was called for taunting with 3.1 ticks showing. Steubenville Catholic’s AJ Connor, who led all scorers with 30 points, knocked down one of the two free throws as the lead had evaporated to two, 50-48.

“That was a big play,” a disgusted Clifford stressed. “Nobody is bigger than the game. That’s what happens when you do stuff like that.”

The Crusaders kept their foot on the gas pedal in the final quarter. After finally drawing even at 50 on a Luca Connor basket, Matt Klinkosky’s only basket of the game — a three-pointer from the left wing — pushed the blue-clad Crusaders ahead for good at 53-50. They would go on to score 23 of the final 33 markers.

“When you have two returning senior starters like Donnie and AJ, they are players, they are shooters,” Steubenville Catholic head coach Chris Tarquinio said of Vandeborne and Connor. “It’s not that we were taking bad shots early in the game, we just missing them. I’ve got all the confidence in the world with those two guys. Tonight they proved to be the senior leaders we need them to be.”

AJ Connor had eight of his game-best total in the final chapter, while Vandeborne, who charted a double-double with 19 points and 16 rebounds, netted nine of his points in the stretch, including a 6-for-6 showing from the charity stripe. AJ Connor also grabbed seven boards.

Luca Connor added 14 points off the bench.

Caden Arbaugh paced Harrison Central with 13 points. Evan Stine added 10 and nine rebounds, while DeJuan Caldwell and Tyler West added 10 and nine points, respectively, in reserve roles. Logan Elliott also went for nine off the bench as the starters and bench scored 30 each.

Steubenville Catholic led 43-38 off the glass and only turned the ball over nine times compared to 17 for the Huskies.