Harrison Central hands Martins Ferry first loss in winning Buckeye 8 boys title

Harrison Central's Hayden Cassidy drives to the basket as Martins Ferry's Gaige O'Connell defends during Saturday's Buckeye 8 boys basketball championship game at Bellaire High School. The Huskies prevailed over the Purple Riders.

BELLAIRE — Regardless of what Martins Ferry did or tried, it was as if Harrison Central was simply not going to be denied.

The Huskies used a run late in the first half and then another spurt in the opening four minutes of the third quarter to build a commanding 19-point lead and went on to claim the school’s second Buckeye 8 title in boys basketball with an 88-79 victory against the previously undefeated Purple Riders Saturday afternoon at Bellaire High School.

“This (championship) means a lot to us,” first-year Harrison Central head coach Aaron Foldi said. “We talked all week about being focused and locked in and our guys came out and played that way. I am really proud of this team.”

The Huskies, who are now 9-7, hadn’t won a league title in boys hoops since 2007. In doing so, they denied the Purple Riders their first crown since 2017.

“The message to our kids was that I am very proud of how we played because I thought we played our tails off,” Martins Ferry head coach Derek Edwards said. “At the end of the day, even though, we lost, we’re a 14-1 team with still so much to play for. This (loss) should not hurt our confidence. It should only motivate us more moving forward.”

The Huskies, who had dropped a 49-36 decision to the Purple Riders last month, wasted no time in showing it had came to Belmont County ready to play. They owned an 18-17 lead after one quarter by established Mykel Quito on the interior, senior Jace Madzia attacking the basket and with junior Hayden Cassidy scoring the ball early from the perimeter.

Their confidence only continued to grow.

“The big difference is our team is really (united) and playing in the moment,” Foldi said. “Jace Madzia has come back (from injury) and he’s the glue to our team. The effort was there.”

Madzia forced the issue early and often on both ends and it seemed that the Huskies fed off of it. As Cassidy heated up from outside in the second, the Huskies settled into their zone defense, which denied driving lanes for the Riders and made life tough on talented 6-5 sophomore Alex Reese on the interior.

Cassidy, who scored 20 of his team-high 30 in the first half, scored 15 in the second and helped to push Harrison to a 41-34 advantage at the break.

“It was a poor defensive effort on our part,” Edwards said. “We didn’t get necessary stops when we had to, got into foul trouble and therefore we had to do some things we didn’t want to do, but had to do. Some of it had to do with Harrison, but a lot of it had to do with us.”

While the Purple Riders struggled to keep the Huskies off the boards, especially the offensive glass, and slow down Cassidy, they also were charted for six turnovers in the third quarter, four of which were steals by Cassidy that led to transition opportunities to help spark a 14-2 run in the third.

“Our guys are a resilient bunch and they just keep fighting and fighting, regardless what the score is,” Foldi said.

With a 61-48 after three, the Huskies were able to keep the Purple Riders at bay. Ferry never could get any closer than nine, which they did three times prior to the final score. Harrison was able to handle the Riders gambling defense and it allowed a run-out chances. Sophomore Mykel Quito, who scored a career-high 27, had 13 in the fourth. Madzia scored seven in the fourth and finished with 13 in the game.

Along with Quito’s work in the lane, Harrison Central also received more than steady play from Clayton Vermillion and senior Cabot Arbaugh, who scored seven.

“Urgency and getting after it both offensively and defensively were things we talked about coming into the game,” Foldi said. “All of our bigs played well. They really fought and battled for rebounds and finished well.”

While Cassidy, Quito and Madzia were scoring the ball at a high rate on the Harrison end, Purple Rider senior Denali Jackson had another impressive effort, posting 31 points. Reese, who fouled out in the middle of the fourth quarter, added 21 points. Freshman sharpshooter Anthony Booth came off the bench to score 17.

In other Buckeye 8 games:

Third-Fourth Place

Bellaire 55, Indian Creek 49

The host Big Reds made it two wins in a row after their six-game skid with a victory against the Redskins.

Junior Mayson Sochor was once again impressive, scoring 23 points. Mac Mac Pettigrew and Jakob Dowling each had 10.

Indian Creek was paced by Lucca Morelli’s 14 and Drake Freshwater’s 13.

Fifth-Sixth Place

Union Local 59, Beaver Local 37

The Jets bounced back from a Thursday loss with a solid win over the Beavers. They used an impressive, third-quarter in which they outscored Beaver, 24-9 to pull away for the win.

Seniors D.J. Butts and Beezer Porter went for 16 and 13 points, respectively to lead UL.

Beaver Local was led by Owen Hill’s 14.

Seventh-Eighth Place

St. Clairsville 86, Edison 38

The Red Devils raced to a 29-9 lead after one and never looked back en route to a convincing win in the ninth and 10th place game.

Sophomore Tyson Pastor led the scoring with 22 points, while junior Cole Thoburn and freshman Kaden Clifford each had 14. Sophomore Brody Schafer added 10.

Edison received 21 points from Braydon Moses.


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