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St. C. Red Devils Boys’ cage Harrison Central Huskies

Photo by Kim North St. Clairsville’s Brady Schafer (4) shoots for two of his 18 points Thursday night in the Red Devils’ 91-88 overtime win at Harrison Central. They were down by 20 late in the third quarter before rallying.

CADIZ — Somebody forgot to tell St. Clairsville and Harrison Central that Thursday night’s boys basketball game was a meaningless regular-season contest that served as a prelude to next week’s sectional tournaments.

The Buckeye 8 rivals were meeting for the third time, with each team winning on the other’s home floor by 20-plus points.

Trailing by 20, 56-36, with a little under three minutes left in the third quarter, the Red Devils (16-6) finally caught fire and outscored the Huskies 55-31, including 14-11 in overtime, to record a stunning, 91-88, verdict inside Harrison Central High School.

“Give my guys credit. They never stopped battling,” St. Clairsville head coach Ryan Clifford said. “We’re a pretty good basketball team when we give effort and energy. I was not thrilled at all with our effort and energy for most of the game. There’s something to be said about the guys on our team. Being down by 20, we could’ve argued with one another and packed it in and get ready for Steubenville next week, but we didn’t.

“This game means something. I don’t know how many times we’re going to play next year and it’s a shame if something happens to prevent that,” Clifford stresses. “This is a game that needs to be played. A good crowd and great atmosphere.”

St. Clairsville’s pressure defense forced Harrison Central into 10 of its 21 turnovers in the fourth quarter when the Red Devils used a twisting layup by Cole Thoburn with 14 seconds left to tie the game at 77.

“We turned up the pressure there late in the third quarter and then our two guys that can score did just that,” Clifford said.

The visitors netted the first seven points of the 4-minute extra session, only to watch the hosts draw even at 86 on a three-point play by Mykel Quito as the clock read 56.3. An inside basket by Tyson Pastor put the Red Devils ahead for good, 88-86, with 30 ticks left.

Harrison Central made 1 of 2 free throws with 21.2 showing to cut the deficit to 88-87, but St. Clairsville’s Brady Schafer pushed the margin back to two, 89-87, with a free throw at 12.1. After a miss by the Huskies, Schafer was fouled again. This time the junior cashed in both attempts for 91-88 count.

After timeouts by both teams, Harrison Central’s last-ditch effort at forcing double OT was off the mark, giving St. Clairsville its remarkable comeback.

“We definitely let one slip away,” Harrison Central head coach Aaron Foldi said. “Turnovers in the fourth quarter were our downfall. We started out playing really well, but we just didn’t finish.

“Give St. Clairsville credit though,” he added. “They never stopped battling all night.”

Sparking the rally was Schafer who charted nine steals, with many leading to easy baskets.

Behind 10 points from Thoburn, the Red Devils were able to cut the deficit to 15, 64-49, after three quarters. Pastor had 10 in the fourth quarter as the visitors put up 28 points. Thoburn and Schafer had eight each.

The Huskies built their big lead on the strength of Clayton Vermillion’s double-double. The 6-5 senior had 23 points and 15 rebounds before fouling out late in regulation. He was one of four players in double figures as Quito also had 23, while Hayden Cassidy finished with 20 and Brady Elliott 19. Quito had nine boards as the hosts led 36-24 off the glass.

Pastor led all scorers with 35. Thoburn added 26 and Schafer 18. Pastor also had a double-double with 10 rebounds.

Both teams shot the ball really well as the Red Devils hit at a 55.6 clip (35-63) and the Huskies at 54.4 (37-68).

St. Clairsville was guilty of just eight turnovers, with only one in the second half and overtime.

Harrison Central hosts Bellaire on Tuesday in an Ohio Division III sectional tournament opener at 7 p.m., while St. Clairsville on Saturday, March 2 at 1 p.m.

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