CHARLESTON -- As if Harmony Grove basketball couldn’t get any more exciting, the senior boys proved Monday that there is no quit in them when it comes to post-season play. Winner over No. 4 Fordyce in Round 1 of the 3A State Tournament on Saturday, the Cardinals came out Monday with a win-or-go-home scenario against the No. 1 Earle Bulldogs.
Looking to take a bit of the bite out of the Dogs, Harmony Grove (25-7) used more stellar defense and good guard play to upset Earle 64-61 sending the ‘Dogs out with an early exit.
“We are very excited and I am very proud of the boys,” Head Coach Dexter Hendrix said. “We are going to try and keep it going (tonight).”
Harmony Grove has been prone to have multiple players in double figures scoring on any given night. On Monday, the Cardinals had four complete the feat for the second straight game in the tournament.
Mitch Scoggins, proven captain and leader all season, led the Redbirds with 25, followed by Hayden Burchfield with 13, Chuck McCormick with 11 and Drake Wilks with 10. Sophomore stud Jake Scoggins scored just five for his club, but brought down 15 rebounds in the must-win for the Cardinals.
“Mitch made some big plays down the stretch,” Hendrix said.
With just over six minutes left in the game, Harmony Grove took what looked like a comfortable 12-point advantage, but quickly found itself in a fight as Earle’s Arthur Guess knocked down back-to-back 3-point jumpers to cut the lead to six, 55-49, with 6:01 remaining.
With both teams battling each other hard and matching shot for shot, Earle used a big run to cut the score to one, 62-61, with 25 seconds left to play. Coming out of a full timeout, Earle quickly moved the ball to the offensive end but came away empty after a missed jumper landed in the hands of Mitch Scoggins with 13.8 seconds left, prompting a timeout by Hendrix.
Still up one, Harmony Grove took the rock the length of the floor. With the lead but wanting the final shot, Mitch Scoggins drew the foul and headed to the line for two crucial free throws. Just like he has been all season, Mitch Scoggins’ clutch free throws put the Cardinals up three with seconds remaining.
“Earle was double teaming him to not get the basketball and he got it, got fouled and made the free throws,” Hendrix said. “
While the game seemed to be going Harmony Grove’s way, the Cardinals had to sweat two 3-point attempts from Earle before sealing the deal and moving to tonight’s semifinal tilt.
“We did a good job of defending the threes,” Hendrix said. “The guys did a really good job of controlling the tempo in the fourth quarter. They made it a half-court game and played really well defensively.”
Burchfield found himself in familiar territory to start the second half — foul trouble. With the big man on the bench to start the third quarter, scrappy defender Nick Johnson took the role of defenseman and shined, according to Hendrix.
“Nick Johnson played his best game all year long,” Hendrix said. “Nick played the whole third quarter and did a really good job rebounding for us. I was really proud of him.”
Wilks fouled out with a 1:30 left in the game, prompting the Cardinals to use a second bench player for defense, primarily.
“Chris Hawkins came in and played very well for us,” Hendrix added.
The Cardinals led 33-29 at halftime.
Looking forward to getting a fourth shot at 5-3A conference for Mayflower in the semifinals, the Cardinals caught a bit of a break after the No. 2 Eagles fell to the host team Charleston, 66-57.
Harmony Grove Athletic Director Ricky Mooney said he believes the Cardinals can beat the Tigers and get to the finals. Mayflower beat Harmony Grove three times this season, including a close win in the 5-3A District Tournament.
Harmony Grove will take the floor again today at 5:30 p.m. A win earns the squad a trip to the big dance later this week at Summit Arena in Hot Springs.
“We have already made history this year at Harmony Grove and we look forward to keeping it going tomorrow,” Hendrix said.