By Ben Murphy
Harrison hung around into the second quarter of Wednesday night’s home game against heavily favored Clare, but the Pioneers closed the half on a 14-2 run, paving way for a 59-28 Jack Pine Conference boys’ basketball win.
“When we started passing the ball quickly we started breaking down their defense and got some good looks and made some threes,” Clare head coach Rob Wise said. “Also, as the game went on our defense got better.”
Scott Smith helped Clare get to an early lead, scoring the games first basket on a lay-in, with Smith Later scoring on a put-back basket and hitting a free-throw to make it 9-2 midway through the first.
Colton Punches drilled a three-pointer from the left-side of the court to give Clare a 12-2 edge and Hunter Ruby made it 16-2 on a pair of free-throws.
Harrison’s Cody Cooper sank a three-ball to bring Harrison within 16-5 at the end of the first and also jump-started the Hornets best run of the game.
Hornet guard Casey Rundell put in a three-pointer from the right side of the court to cut the lead to 16-8 moments into the second quarter and Bryce Osborn made a shot from the left elbow to make it 16-10.
Clare scored the game’s next four points, putting its lead back to 20-10, but Coughlin hit a 16-footer from straight away to bring Harrison back to within eight.
Spencer Harrell grabbed a steal on a Hornet inbound pass and cut into the paint for a quick hoop to get Clare’s second quarter ending run started.
“To tell you the truth when Cooper got his fourth foul and had to come out all the momentum we had left,” Harrison head coach Joe Ashcroft said, pointing to a four minute stretch where the Hornets played without their senior forward.
Late in the half a put-back by Conner Clickner put the Pioneers up 27-14, with Zach Pulcifer following that up with a three-pointer from the right side of the court.
Tyler knocked down a short jumper from straight-out and Smith sank two free throws to give Clare a 34-14 halftime lead.
The Pioneers picked up where they left off in the second half, getting a quick Clickner three-pointer from the left corner and a tough lay-in by Smith off an inbound pass.
Tyler and Punches also added three-pointers in the frame, giving Clare a commanding 51-20 edge entering the fourth quarter.
“Something has to motivate this group, they’re playing games like practices right now,” Ashcroft said. “They need to motivate themselves to hustle and play basketball. It’s taking two or three quarters to get them motivated.”
Coughlin scored the first four points of the fourth for Harrison, hitting a pair of free-throws and getting a mid-range turn around jumper on the right side of the court to fall, but Clare continued to cruise to the win, getting six points by Seth Harton and a basket by Evan Schumacher to ice the game.
Wise credited the lopsided win to his team’s ability on the boards, pointing out his squad out-rebounded Harrison 47-19.
“That’s one area that we need to be good at to be successful,” he said. “We were impressive at that tonight, especially on the defensive end. It just makes your defense that much better. When you rebound their misses you’re going to be successful.”
Smith led the Pioneers with 13 points and five rebounds, Punches had 10 points, Hunter Ruby had eight points and 11 boards, Harton and Tyler both scored six, Clickner had five points and four assists, Mason Packard had four points, Pulcifer put in three, with Spencer Harrell and Schumacher both netting two points apiece.
Harrison was led by Coughlin with eight points, Rundell had seven, Cooper and Matt Haskell both scored five, Bryce Osborn had two and Tod Stier had one.
Clare lost its other recent game, 58-36 at Beaverton on Friday, Jan. 25.
Beaverton had a big lead of 24-8 after the first quarter and cruised the rest of the night, leading 34-13 at the half and 48-26 entering the fourth.
“We played hard the whole game, their pressure was just too much for us,” Wise said. “Whenever we went on a run they would force a few turnovers and go on a quick run. I feel like this team is making strides and we are getting better every day.”
Scott Smith led Clare with 10 points and Hunter Ruby had nine rebounds.
Clare (7-7 overall, 5-5 JPC) had its game at Coleman on Monday canceled due to weather. The game will be made-up on Wednesday. The Pioneers play at Meridian tonight (Friday) and host Roscommon on Feb. 8.
Harrison lost its other game last week, suffering a 59-38 JPC to visiting Roscommon.
The Bucks led the entire night, holding a 24-8 lead after the first, 34-13 edge at the half and 48-26 entering the fourth.
Casey Rundell led the Hornets with 13 points and Cody Cooper netted eight.
The Hornets (0-13, 0-10 JPC) play at Farwell tonight (Friday) and play at Coleman on Tuesday.