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Knights start hot, hold off Huskies to reach regional finals
Posted By Brandon Reid On March 2, 2011 @ 8:27 am In Happening Now | No Comments
By Matt Nestor
Despite being sluggish for most of the night, the Auburn Knights still entered the fourth quarter of their regional semifinal matchup with Harlem up by 18.
The Huskies cut that lead to 9 and had the ball with 2 minutes left in the game. But Auburn turned up the defensive pressure, knocked down some free throws and took down Harlem by a final of 80-65.
“Sometimes outscoring a team is just the way it has to get done,” Auburn Head Coach Bryan Ott said. “We take such pride in what we do defensively, and we just felt like we were not getting it done defensively at all.”
Harlem kept it close early by taking advantage of their size in the post. Brenton Benedict and Alex Ghinazzi, who combined for 23 points inside, played a high-low post game and took advantage of the shorter Knights over the top.
“Early, we let the pressure kind of get to us, and there were some unforced turnovers on our part,” Harlem Head Coach Chad Barger said. “But we settled in and played a tough game. We thought we could do some damage inside. Brenton and Alex have worked hard, and we wanted to feed them in there.”
On an off-shooting night for Fred Van Vleet, the Knights found themselves only up 6 at the half. But LaMark Foote stepped up his game. The junior guard finished with 22 points, and hit two big threes as the Knights pushed their lead to 18.
“It was just another night where I had to step up,” Foote said. “When we execute our offense, we know Fred is going to get us the ball.”
Harlem made their final run behind Michael Proscia. The junior hit three 3-point shots on his way to a team-high 16 points. But Auburn’s Javauntae Hicks countered with 17 points of his own, stepping up with several big jump shots and three free throws at the end.
“Javauntae did a great job,” Ott said. “We’ve talked to him in recent weeks that the open, mid-range jump shot, if he is ready to shoot it, he’s going to knock that down. Tonight, you saw a perfect display of a kid taking the shots he should take. And we really needed him to step up and do that.”
For Harlem, it was the end to a tough, but productive, season. With only five seniors leaving, and Proscia and Benedict back next year, Barger hopes this is a building block for the future.
“We’ve played Auburn tough twice, we played Hononegah tough and that is where we want to get our program,” Barger said. “We want to get to that level and stay there. It’s a process, and we want to continue to climb that ladder.”
Auburn will await the winner of the Boylan versus Hononegah game that will take place Wednesday, March 2, at Jefferson High School. While there was a lot of good to take away from the Knights’ effort, Ott is concerned about his team’s defense against the size of whichever team they play.
“A lot of concern,” he said. “We have been able to defend the post very well all season long. We’ve had a keen awareness of help-side defense and playing from behind. Tonight, despite all the fussing I did about it, we never got it done.”
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