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Harrison survives against UL

T-L Photo/KIM NORTH HARRISON CENTRAL senior Kobe Mitchell looks to drive against Union Local’s Zac Bateman during Friday’s game.

CADIZ — Big-time players make big-time plays.

With his team trailing by a point with a little over a minute remaining to play Friday night, Kobe Mitchell went high into the air to steal a Union Local inbounds on the Jets end of the floor. The Akron-bound senior dribbled the length of the floor and laid the ball off the glass as Harrison Central took a 64-63 lead. Sophomore Cabot Arbaugh calmly sank two late free throws and the Huskies held off the visiting Jets, 66-63.

The victory snapped a three-game losing streak and came despite the hosts blowing a 17-point lead three times in the third quarter, the last coming at 52-35 with 2:40 showing.

“The same way at their place. We were up by 12 or so points and they came back. They are a good team,” Harrison Central (7-5) head coach Justin Clifford said of a 68-65 loss at Morristown earlier this season. “They can shoot it and they got hot there for a minute and made some shots. Give them credit.

“However, I told my guys that’s the first time that a couple of things went bad for us but we still made some plays when we had to,” Clifford added. “Kudos to my kids for being able to do that.”

The Huskies’ boss wasn’t surprised to see his all-Ohioan come up big at the end.

“I think he (Kobe) was upset a little bit with himself after the other night against St. Clairsville (an overtime loss). Coach (Donnie) Madzia kind of challenged him to have a different mentality,” Clifford noted. “What can you say?”

Mitchell scored 38 points, grabbed six rebounds, charted four steals, three assists and a blocked shot. He had 40 against the Jets in their first meeting.

“Defensively, we gave up 25 points in the second quarter alone and we had been playing strong in that area,” Union Local head coach Zach Delman said. “That was the reason for our turnaround lately.”

Down by 17 with just over two minutes left in the third panel, Union Local (5-3) made its move and crept to within single digits when Luke Merritt knocked down a trey from the right corner to make it 52-43.

The Jets, who saw their 5-game winning streak snapped, took their first lead since 22-21 midway through the second quarter when Nathan Meyer made it 57-56 by driving through the lane and getting the ball to drop.

Mitchell put the hosts back on top 58-57 but UL used a Andrew Martin bucket to re-gain the upperhand at 59-58 with 3:41 left to play. Mitchell scored again as the Huskies led 60-59, but back-to-back baskets by Meyer and Bateman made it 63-60 in favor of the visitors.

Jonathan Vermillion got Harrison Central to within one, 63-62, setting the stage for Mitchell.

Following Mitchell’s steal-and-layup, Arbaugh was fouled with 17.3. The 6-5 sophomore tickled the twine on both for the final margin of victory.

“Those were two big free throws and Cabot knocked them both down,” Clifford said.

Union Local had one last chance after Harrison Central missed the front end of a 1-and-1. However, after calling timeout with just 0.2 seconds remaining, Bateman couldn’t get a three-point attempt off before the buzzer sounded.

“Obviously, Kobe is going to get his points and he draws a lot of attention. You have to tilt your defense towards him because if you let him play 1-on-1 he’s going to score on just about everyone around here. Credit to the Cassidy kid for coming in there and hitting some shots.”

Backing Mitchell’s performance was Vermillion with 13 points. Hayden Cassidy added nine.

Bateman paced four twin figure scorers for UL with 18 points, 11 of those coming in the fourth quarter. Meyer finished with 17, Merritt 14 and Martin a dozen off the bench.

“We had two lazy, lethargic practices. I don’t know whether we thought we were good enough to just show up and win or if we were fatigued from going back to school and those long days,” Delman said. “I don’t know, but there is no excuse for lethargic practices, especially when you have five seniors out there on the court most of the time.

“I told them you practice like you play. Don’t be surprised if they (Harrison) doesn’t come out and kick the crap out of you because of the way you practiced. That’s what happened in the second quarter.”

The Huskies led 22-19 off the glass as Vermillion and Arbaugh matched Mitchell’s half-a-dozen boards. Merritt and Martin had five each for the Jets.

Despite the loss, Delman was pleased with the way his team fought back at the end.

“Very happy with the effort in the second half to give ourselves a chance to win,” he said. “Just a couple of unfortunate things happened at the end.”

Both teams are back in action tonight as Harrison Central treks to Hannibal to meet River, while Union Local also heads south to Shadyside.

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