Union Local tops Harrison

MORRISTOWN — Harrison Central came out scorching Tuesday evening inside the ‘The Hangar.’

The Huskies knocked down eight of their first 10 shots from the floor and held a 25-16 lead at the first stoppage.

There was absolutely not one ounce of panic from Union Local. After all, the Jets — much to the chagrin of their head coach — have had their fair share of slow starts this season.

“This is the second or third time a team has come out and just shot the lights out against us early in the game,” Union Local head coach Zach Delman lamented. “Harrison’s good. There’s a reason they’re making eight 3s and scoring close to 80 points a game. They’re a dangerous team with athletes all over the floor.”

As his team has done most of the season, the Jets responded to the early adversity, chipped away and posted a 64-60 victory for their 10th win in 11 starts.

“I was concerned about this game for a while now,” Delman continued. “We can’t play the underdog card like we did last year. People are circling us on (the schedule) and want to beat us. We’re going to get everyone’s best shot.”

The Huskies, who scored only 11 points in the second quarter, seized the momentum they had lost back just before half. The Jets ran the clock down, but went for a shot too early. It was rebounded by Harrison, who found Caden Arbaugh who promptly sank a NBA-range trey as the horn sounded. They continued that in the third quarter when they opened the half with an Arbaugh layup.

From there, however, the Huskies (5-4) — according to their head coach — had a letdown.

“We went away from what got us the lead,” Harrison Central head coach Justin Clifford said. “We didn’t do what we do and it cost us. We didn’t focus for four quarters mentally and it cost us. It’s something we’ve harped on all year.”

The third quarter ended with a 46-all tie, setting the stage for an entertaining final period, which saw four lead changes in the opening five minutes.

“I thought we were good early in the fourth,” Clifford said. “When we wanted to be, we were pretty good. I thought we were good early and late, but the third quarter really cost us the game. We came out and got an easy bucket to start the half and we relaxed. I’m not sure if we thought we had it in the bag or what, but you could see us relax and you can’t do that on the road against a good team.”

The Jets appeared to be on their way to pulling away when they stretched the lead out to seven at 60-53, but the Huskies continued to battle. Kobe Mitchell — the Huskies’ talented freshman — got a floater to go, making it 60-56. Union Local — uncharacteristically — obliged Harrison by knocking down just one-of-two from the line on consecutive trips.

Arbaugh tallied again, making it 61-58, and following the next one-of-two, Mitchell cashed in again, making it 62-60 with 8.5 to play. The Jets inbounded to talented senior Ty Kildow, who had a hot hand early and finished with 22 points. He cashed both foul shots for the final tally.

“We told the kids at halftime to close the book on the first half and just play our game in the second half,” Delman said. “We’ve put together some nice second halves this year. We wanted to get the game to even to start the fourth and we were able to do that. I like our chances against anyone in the fourth quarter in a close game. We have smart kids who can make free throws and take care of the ball.”

Once again the Jets were balanced in the scoring column. Backing Kildow’s effort was his younger brother, Cal. He finished with 14. Elijah Baker and Cody Ray went for 13 and 10, respectively.

Arbaugh and Mitchell paced Harrison with 20 and 16, respectively. DeJuan Caldwell came off the bench to knock down a trio of treys en route to 9 points.

The Jets have a busy weekend ahead. They visit Bellaire on Friday before hosting Shadyside the next night. Harrison Central, meanwhile, are off until next Tuesday when they welcome Bellaire.