Defense leads Huskies’ rally for a victory

CADIZ – The Martins Ferry boys basketball team’s 18-point third-quarter lead dwindled to five before the end of the stanza.

It foreshadowed an impeccable comeback by Harrison Central as the Huskies rallied for a 61-53 win.

The miraculous finish unfolded before a raucous crowd in the John W. Stephenson Center as the painted student section, known affectionately as the Dog Pound, helped feed energy onto the court.

“You have to give our fans a lot of the credit, they never gave up on us,” said Harrison Central coach Justin Clifford.

“The way we play there are gong to be some high points, like when we made the run, and there are going to be some low points, like when we were down almost 20.”

The first quarter was a back-and forth battle with the Huskies gaining the momentum as Martins Ferry committed three turnovers in the opener. The momentum quickly shifted as the Purple Riders turned up the heat forcing six straight turnovers to put the hosts in a double digit hole.

Harrison Central was held scoreless for the first 4:30 of the second quarter. Lucas Agnew transitioned two steals into two layups dropping in six points in the second helping the Purple Riders to their 29-17 halftime lead.

Early in the third quarter Martins Ferry took advantage of their height feeding the ball underneath to Robert Vargo who netted 8 points boosting the lead to 39-21 before the Huskies rally.

“We had an 18-point lead in the second half and we played very well to get that lead,” Martins Ferry veteran coach Jeff Sabatino said. “Give their kids a lot of credit, the game changed dramatically when their kids turned up the heat and played with an incredible amount of intensity.”

The game was tied with 4:46 left as the Huskies David Miser penetrated the paint and made a right-handed lay up to knot the score at 45 apiece. Less than 30 seconds later Nate Olmstead would drain a three-point bucket to give the hosts back the lead for the first time since the opening frame.

Jake Barritt fought under the bucket to close the gap to 48-47 before Harrison Central’s Dustin Redish drove across the time line and all the way to the hoop to make it 50-47.

Senior Austin Kowalski stepped up in the final minutes to score 7 of his 11 points netting a key bucket and making good on 5 of 8 from the foul line as the Huskies tallied 30 fourth quarter points to seal the win.

Vargo paced the Purple Riders with a double-double scoring a game high 18 points while pulling down 10 rebounds. Barritt finished with 14 points while Agnew added 8 points and 6 steals. Martins Ferry tallied 19 caroms and coughed up the basketball 27 times.

Redish netted 13 for Harrison Central. Miser chipped in 12 points with 7 of the Huskies 23 rebounds. The Huskies had 22 turnovers.

The Purple Riders fall to 1-3 and will travel to Bellaire Friday night, while Harrison Central (3-2) is at St. Clairsville for round one of the Clifford Bowl.

Harrison Central 61, Martins Ferry 53

Martins Ferry 11 18 12 12 – 53

Harrison Central 10 7 14 30 61

MARTINS FERRY: Barritt 4 6-9 14, A. Buress 1 1-4 3, Edwards 0 2-2 2, Agnew 4 0-1 8, Bass 3 0-0 8, Vargo 7 4-5 18. TOTALS: 19 13-21 53. 3-pointers: Bass 2.

HARRISON CENTRAL: Kowalski 3 5-8 11, B. Mitchell 3 3-5 10, Redish 5 2-4 13, Evans 2 0-0 5, Yoho 1 0-0 3, Olmstead 2 2-5 7, Miser 5 2-4 12. TOTALS 21 14-26 61. 3-pointers: B. Mitchell, Redish, Evans, Yoho, Olmstead.