Huskies top J-Hawks in late thriller
By Matt Nestor
If the first game of the IHSA Class 4A regional was any indicator of what to expect this week in the round, a cardiologist or two may want to be on hand.
Jefferson stormed back from 12 down in the last 5 minutes of the fourth quarter to take a lead in the last minute.
But Harlem’s Tre Wagner did not want his senior season to end, and he put in a layup to give the Huskies a 1-point lead with 19 seconds left.
The J-Hawks got three looks at the basket as the clock wound down, but they could not convert any put-backs, and Harlem held on for a 61-60 win in the opening round.
“We ultimately wanted a post touch inside for (Brenton) Benedict,” Harlem Head Coach Chad Barger said. “If we didn’t get it, we wanted the ball in Wagner’s hand. Those have been two rocks for us all year. They carried us today, and we had to roll with those guys.”
The ending was a stark contrast from what happened for most of the second half. Harlem turned a 29-26 halftime lead into a 10-point lead at the end of the third quarter.
Benedict played a huge role in the run, knocking down 8 points in the quarter, on his way to 14 for the game. Michael Proscia also knocked down two threes in the quarter to help extend the lead.
“We try to run through him first,” Barger said of Benedict. “We try to play inside-outside. When we do that, we’re OK. But when we don’t and we try to shoot threes out of transition, we’re obviously not as good of a team.”
But as the Huskies seemed to be putting the game away, Davontay Lewis did his best to salvage his senior season.
Lewis attacked the Harlem defense at will, and also helped cause a pile of Harlem turnovers, on his way to a game-high 21 points.
But in the end, the J-Hawks came up just short as the Huskies challenged every shot the J-Hawks took in the waning seconds.
“We started playing in a hurry instead of playing quick,” Barger said. “We’ve had opportunities to put ourselves in position to win and we didn’t. But tonight, we held on and you have to learn how to win these games.”
The reward for the Huskies is a date with the NIC-10 champion Auburn Knights.
“We have to show up to play,” Barger said of what his team needs to do to be the first team to knock off the Knights. “The first time we played Auburn, we didn’t. They punched us right away and we backed down. They have three great guards and it’s pick your poison. We’re just going to leave it all on the floor. The pressure is on them, and we’ll see what happens.”
In the other opening-round game at Jefferson, the Boylan Titans overcame a slow start against Guilford before a third-quarter outburst helped Boylan cruise to a 70-52 victory.
The Vikings tried to take the air out of the ball early, keeping the game at a slow pace early and trailing by 3 points at the end of the first quarter.
The Titans led by 7 at the half, and then a 26-15 surge in the third quarter helped Boylan to get to their winning margin.
Armani Flannigan scored 12 points to lead Boylan, while Chris Miller chipped in 11 and Jason Painter scored 10.
In the Class 3A regional, the Belvidere Bucs cruised to an 85-68 victory over Marengo. The Bucs will face East Wednesday, March 2, in the regional semifinals.
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