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Harrison Central closes doors at John W. Stephenson Center with sectional crown

DRIVING IN — Harrison Central’s Payton Taylor drives past Claymont’s Michael Lesiecki in a Division II sectional co-final on Saturday. (Andrew Grimm)

CADIZ — The Harrison Central boys basketball team wanted to close the John W. Stephenson Center out the right way in Saturday night’s Division II East District sectional final.

It did just that, pulling away early and never looking back to defeat Claymont, 59-35, in the final game inside the old building, which has been hosting the Huskies — and Cadiz High School before that — since 1961.

“We got off to a strong start and just continued it throughout,” Harrison Central coach Justin Clifford said. “This was the last time anyone is going to play in this gym. We talked about it all week. We talked about finishing the gym off the right way. It’s not only big for us, but a lot of people.

“A lot of people have played here. My father coached here when it was Cadiz. There have been hundreds of players that walked through these doors and put blood, sweat and tears on the line. We wanted to go out with a win for them.”

Sending the building off with a sectional title was important to the senior group, including Evan Stine who finished with eight points and a game-high eight rebounds.

“It means a lot to us,” Stine said. “It means the world to win (the final home game), especially with it being the last game in this gym. We played really well and got off to a good start in the first and second quarters. If we don’t come come out with intensity, we’re not as good as we can be, so coming out strong was important.”

It is the second-consecutive sectional title for the Huskies.

“We haven’t won many around here,” Clifford said. “They’re cutting the nets down. This is something to be proud of. It doesn’t happen every year here and that is something that we talked about. It’s nice to get back-to-back. We’re hoping it’s the new norm.”

Kobe Mitchell, the Huskies sophomore standout, led a first quarter onslaught with 12 of his game-high 20 points in the opening eight minutes, also dishing six assists and pulling down three rebounds.

“We kind of expect that out of him now,” Clifford said. “That’s just the type of player he is. They pushed him around and grabbed him. They pulled him and did everything they could to stop him, but he doesn’t get frustrated. That’s the type of kid he is. He stays even keel and goes about his business.”

After the No. 15 seed Mustangs (6-17) opened the scoring, the Huskies rattled off the next 12-straight points to take a 12-2 lead. Mitchell collected 10 of those points, and No. 6 seed Harrison Central (17-6) did not look back, jumping out to a 21-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.

“We had a week and a half to prepare and we were hoping we would come out a little better than that,” Claymont coach Gary Watkins said. “It didn’t work out the way we wanted it to. When we get down, we don’t have the firepower to get back. Everything becomes a struggle. They’ve got a nice team. We just can’t get down 12-2.

“On top of that, we usually play better defense. We just took the night off and this is not a good night to take off.”

By halftime, the Huskies pushed the lead to 19 points, leading by as many as 21 prior to the intermission.

In the third quarter, Harrison Central’s defense put on a clinic, holding Claymont without a bucket for more than five minutes while continuing to grow the lead.

The Mustangs scored just three points in the third, and the game was all-but decided with Harrison Central on top by 28 points.

“We went through a little bit of a (offensive) lull, but we only gave up (three points) in the third quarter, so I can’t complain about that,” Clifford said. “It wasn’t real entertaining like we like it, but we’ll take it.”

The Huskies led by as many as 30 points in the fourth before late substitutions.

Harrison Central also got 13 points from Gavin Muckle and nine points from Caden Dalton.

“Kobe knows he doesn’t do it on his own,” Clifford said. “It’s hard for teams to double him because we have other guys that can hurt you.”

Claymont was led by eight points from Brady Milborn, while Braden Watkins and Jordan Taylor each had six points.

The Huskies next challenge will be Steubenville Big Red in the district semifinal round on Wednesday at a neutral site. Steubenville defeated Philo 60-52 in its sectional final on Saturday.

“Division II is a bear,” Clifford said. “There are no easy wins. We’ll prepare and be ready.”

GAME NOTES

¯ The Harrison Central boys bowling team was recognized at halftime after placing seventh in Saturday’s state championship. The Huskies won the sectional and districts tournaments to get to Columbus.

(Grimm can be reached at agrimm@heraldstaronline.com)

Harrison Central 59, Claymont 35

Claymont 6-11-3-15 — 35

Harrison Central 21-15-12-11 — 59

CLAYMONT (6-17): Watkins 3 0-1 6; Lesiecki 2 1-2 5; Milborn 4 0-0 8; Armsrong 1 0-0 2; Taylor 2 1-2 6; Bowman 2 0-0 5; White 0 0-2 0; Harris 1 0-0 2; Povick 0 1-2 1. TOTALS: 15 3-9 35.

HARRISON CENTRAL (17-6): Mitchell 7 4-6 20; Muckle 5 1-2 13; Dalton 4 1-2 9; Stine 3 2-3 8; Taylor 2 0-1 5; West 1 0-0 2; Capers 0 0-0 0; Rogers 1 0-0 2; Santille 0 0-0 0; Vermillion 0 0-1 0; Mazeroski 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 23 8-17 59.

3-POINT GOALS: Claymont 2 (Taylor, Bowman); Harrison Central 5 (Mitchell 2, Muckle 2, Taylor). ASSISTS: Claymont 11 (Watkins 4); Harrison Central 19 (Mitchell 6, Dalton 6). REBOUNDS: Claymont 19 (Taylor 5); Harrison Central 30 (Stine 8). TURNOVERS: Claymont 17; Harrison Central 9.

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