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Harrison Central outlasts Martins Ferry in OVAC consolation tilt, 50-44

MARTINS FERRY — Friday night’s Wheeling Hospital OVAC Class 4A boys’ championship consolation tilt between Buckeye 8 rivals Harrison Central and Martins Ferry mirrored a heavyweight bout.

The Huskies landed a huge haymaker to start the contest inside Tolbert Gymnasium, but the Purple Riders weathered the beating and, soon, responded with a few blows themselves.

In the end, Harrison Central withstood Martins Ferry’s best shots and emerged victorious, 50-44, behind a game-high 27 points All-Ohioan Kobe Mitchell.

“We made some key buckets when we needed them, and made some key rebounds and got some loose ball,” Huskies head coach Justin Clifford said of his squad’s scrappy effort in the second victory in three meetings between the foes this season.

“Things like that, those are some things that don’t always show up in the box score, but those are some things that we haven’t done in some games and that’s why we’ve lost them. We made a few of those plays late when we needed them.”

Harrison Central (11-8) led by 15 early in the fourth, but Martins Ferry engineered a 14-2 run to pull to within three with 1:54 remaining. But the Huskies closed the game on a 5-2 run to emerge victorious.

“Too little, too late,” Purple Riders head coach Derek Edwards surmised. “Our effort was there. We played three quarters. I don’t know what we were doing there in the first. It’s definitely tough to play from behind, especially against good teams, and especially against a team with a player of Kobe’s ability.”

Harrison Central sprinted out to a 12-0 lead behind six points from Mitchell, who sparked a successful transition attack that had Martins Ferry on its heels. The Purple Riders finished with just one first-quarter point, symbolic of an inconsistent night offensively for the hosts.

“In the first quarter, it was just a lack of execution, so we have to get better at that,” Edwards said.

Martins Ferry rallied late in the second behind Logan Smith, who finished with a team-high 14 points. He sparked a surge that left his team down just nine at the break, and with momentum.

“We didn’t stop fighting,” Edwards said, “and that’s something I’m taking away from this game as a big positive. Our kids played extremely hard. It wasn’t a lack of effort.”

But, just as they’d done at the start of the first half, the Huskies began the second on a tear.

Mitchell scored six straight, including two off a thread-the-needle assist from Cruz Capers, as Harrison Central opened up a 13-point lead. The advantage stayed in double digits until the fourth when the Purple Riders started clawing back thanks to its press.

Dasyn Hores, who scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth, collected six straight and four off steals, as Martins Ferry scored nine consecutive making the score 43-37 with about 4 minutes left.

Mitchell hit a pair of free throws making the score 45-37, but the Purple Riders (10-11) scored five straight to pull within three, 45-42.

But that’s as close as they’d get as Johnny Vermillion, who had 13, broke loose for a layup with 1:45 to go to start the Huskies on their way.

Clifford credited an improved defensive effort inside Tolbert this time around, one he said was absent from a 60-49 defeat on Jan.10.

“We went back to, kind of, what we do,” he said. “The big thing was rebounding. They’re big, strong and athletic and we’ve got some guys that scrap and rebound and make plays.”

The Huskies travel to Indian Creek on Monday for a makeup contest. Martins Ferry welcomes Toronto on Tuesday for its home finale.

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