When Tyler Smithpeters was popped in the mouth late in the fourth quarter, Harrisburg trailed Dyer County by a mere two points.
Smithpeters was able to stop the bleeding on his lip, however, Harrisburg couldn’t stop the bleeding on the court.
Dyer County took momentum of a game slipping away on their home court in the Penny Hardaway HoopFest and built a 10-point lead over the span of three minutes, holding off Harrisburg 76-68 Friday night at Dyer County High School.
The loss was the first for Harrisburg, which will quickly lick its wounds, before playing a week-long tournament at Carmi-White County High School.
On the way down to Dyer County, Harrisburg head coach Randy Smithpeters took time to talk to his team on the back of the charter bus about just one thing: adversity.
“I was proud of how our guys responded to that,” Smithpters said. “You’re going to have adversity in the fact that the opponent is going to create situations you’re not comfortable with and knowing that we probably wouldn’t get a lot of whistles or breaks being two states away. We were on their home court and handled that adversity, I think that’s a big step and an even better lesson.”
As for the Choctaws, they have now beat a pair of No. 1 teams on back-to-back nights, as they knocked off No. 1 in Missouri Class 3A Charleston Thursday night and Illinois’ 2A Harrisburg Friday.
Dyer County has rattled off 16 straight to improve to 18-1 on the season.
The Penny Hardaway HoopFest had the pomp and circumstance of a high school showcase tucked away in the Northwest corner of Tennessee.
Not only was the former Memphis State and Orlando Magic guard on hand to watch all the games, college coaches like Michigan State’s Tom Izzo were front and center to see some of the nation’s best prep athletes.
One of those being Dyer County’s Robert Hubbs III, America’s No. 2 shooting guard, who turned away such prolific universities such as Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky to stay at home and play for the Volunteers.
Hubbs finished with 19 points and a team-high six rebounds, but was outdone by Smithpeters who scored a game-high 21 points on 5-of-15 shooting from the field. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard had the eye of one particular assistant college coach scouting him Friday as he went 8-of-8 from the free throw line and pulled down seven rebounds.
Smithpeters didn’t downplay the process of having to go against one of the best players the Bulldogs will see this year, adding that while it would have been nice to go undefeated on the year, this loss will be a learning opportunity for Harrisburg.
Page 2 of 2 - “It was a difficult game,” Smithpeters said. “We knew coming in that Hubbs was a talented player and Dyer County was going to be a physical bunch, but we just felt like we had to be physical back.
“This was the first time we have been down in a game like this and had to fight. We really needed a game like this, to be honest. It was good for us, it was a good learning situation.”
Harrisburg was nearly eight minutes away from keeping its unbeaten streak in tact thanks to an almost half-court shot by Bahari Amaya has time expired in the third quarter to give Harrisburg a 56-54 lead, the first of the game for the Bulldogs, heading into the fourth quarter.
However, Dyer County’s Jamaal Ahmad (17 points) knocked down a bucket to tie the game at 56-all and Hubbs gave the Choctaw’s the lead back for good with a short jumper with 6:49 to play.
Smithpeters said he was happy with the effort his guys gave and more importantly handling the pressure applied by Dyer County for 32 minutes.
“I was really happy with the way we handled their pressure,” he said. “We were right there, with the lead going into the fourth and it just takes one little sputter to get behind and then you’re going to struggle and that’s how it worked out.”
There were just two lead changes, but seven ties in a game that saw Harrisburg down by as many as nine points in the first half and 12 very late in the game.
One of the bright spots for the Bulldogs was the second half play of Dakota Upchurch.
The senior forward scored a career-high 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including pulling down a team-high 11 rebounds.
“We came down here wanting to get on the bus to go home a better team,” Smithpeters said. “ It would have been nice if we would had came away with a victory, but that just wasn’t the case against a very good Dyer County ball club, but I still feel like we are getting on the bus a better team.”