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Sandy Valley stuns, eliminates Harrison Central

Kim North HEADING UP — Harrison Central’s Maddy Butler attempts a close-range shot past Sandy Valley’s Alli Neary during a Division III East 1 sectional contest on Thursday.

CADIZ — The first home postseason girls basketball game in Harrison Central history will not be one the Huskies will look back on with a smile.

Alexis Dotson came off the bench to hit a trio of clutch 3-point shots, and Jordan Parker knocked down four key free throws in the final minute, as eighth-seeded Sandy Valley stunned the No. 5 Huskies, 52-51, in a Division III East 1 sectional tournament contest Thursday night.

Harrison Central (16-6) scored the first nine points of the third quarter to take a 28-19 advantage, but Dotson, who didn’t play in the first half, connected on back-to-back triples from the right corner to give the Cardinals (11-10) a 32-30 nod with 80 seconds left in the quarter.

After McKayla Dunkle scored to draw the Huskies even, Sandy Valley netted the initial seven points of the fourth panel for a 41-35 lead it would never relinquish.

Dotson capped the outburst with her third trifecta — this one from the left corner.

The Huskies could never get any closer than four points until Angi Ferri buried a bonus goal with 0.3 showing for the final margin. After a Harrison Central timeout, Sandy Valley successfully inbounded the ball as the buzzer sounded.

“The big thing in the second half was we gave up 33 points,” Harrison Central head coach Nick Yourkovich said. “In the last 13 games, we’ve been averaging giving up 36-37 per game. We didn’t do nearly enough on the defensive end in the second half to give ourselves a legitimate shot to win it.”

The Huskies’ pressure forced the Cardinals into 24 turnovers, with 14 coming in the first half. However, the visitors from Magnolia recovered by shooting a blistering 66 percent (19-29) from the floor.

“Unfortunately, that’s been our season,” Sandy Valley head coach Tim McBride said. “We lost our senior point guard with an ACL injury in the third scrimmage, so we play two freshman guards. Unfortunately, we turn the ball over more than 20 times a game, but we still managed to win 11 ballgames. That says a lot about the caliber and quality of girls we have.”

Sophomore Maddy Butler charted six of her eight steals in the opening half as the Huskies’ pressure rattled the Cardinals.

“She’s a pest defensively. She’s quick and tough as nails,” Yourkovich said of his point guard. “She really frustrates the opposing guards when she doesn’t reach. She’s bought into that.”

While Sandy Valley was making all but 10 shots from the floor, the same cannot be said about Harrison Central, which struggled at 19 for 51, including a mere 3 for 15 from beyond the arc.

“That hasn’t been our strong suit all year,” Yourkovich said of the ice-cold outside shooting. “We normally shoot better than we did tonight, though.”

Dunkle led the Huskies with a double-double. The junior produced 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Butler added 11 points, one more than senior Audrey Corder.

Abbey Parker paced the Cardinals with 13 points. Jordan Parker chipped in 11, with 10 of those coming in the fourth quarter.

“This is the same group of girls that went 2-21 last year, so for them to put in the work, trust and believe in each other, they were so much fun to watch,” Yourkovich said of his team that won 12 of its last 13 prior to Thursday. “I am so proud of how they came together and believed in each other. They held each other accountable, and they loved each other. That’s why that locker room is so emotional right now.

“This is a year that I never wanted to end. I wanted to be around this group another week or so.”

Sandy Valley advances to host No. 11 Cambridge, a 54-42 winner at Martins Ferry Thursday.

In Division III East 2, 14th-seeded Edison fell to No. 4 Tusky Valley, 66-16. It now tentatively faces third-seeded Union Local (63-16 winners over No 13 Bellaire) on next Thursday.

Sandy Valley 52, Harrison Central 51

Sandy 10 9 15 18 — 52

Harrison 10 9 16 16 — 51

SANDY VALLEY (11-10): Neary 4 1-3 9; Faiello 0 0-0 0; Tucci 1 1-2 3; A. Ward 2 3-3 7; A. Parker 6 1-1 13; J. Parker 3 5-8 11; Z. Ward 0 0-0 0; Dotson 3 0-0 9. TOTALS: 19, 11-17: 52.

HARRISON CENTRAL (16-6): Positano 0 4-4 4; Corder 4 2-2 10; Dunkle 7 2-5 16; Butler 4 2-2 11; Harbold 3 0-1 7; Beadling 0 0-0 0; Ferri 1 0-0 3. TOTALS: 19, 10-14: 51.

3-POINT GOALS: Sandy Valley 3 (Dotson 3); Harrison Central 3 (Butler, Harbold, Ferri).

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