Smiles might have not have been price of admission Friday night, but they sure were worth it.
On a special night at Davenport Gymnasium, seven seniors gave fans their monies worth as they certainly saved their best for last in an 86-50 beating of Benton to close out the regular season.
Even before the junior varsity game, many members of the Bulldogs were giving early comers something to smile about as they pleased the crowd with dunks and long-distance 3-pointers. During senior introductions, fans and family members fought off tears in place of smiles and during the game, players grinned ear-to-ear as nifty no-look passes and a full-court fast paced offense led to layups and long range shots.
As the clock began to wind down in the fourth quarter, smiles escorted players to the bench where they sat side-by-side sharing laughs in the final minutes.
Harrisburg had three players in double figures - but more importantly - every senior scored in what became an early rout of the Rangers.
Capel Henshaw led all players with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, while Tyler Smithpeters tacked on 12 and Dakota Upchurch put in 10 points.
The scoring continued as Ryne Roper, Bahari Amaya and Caleb Bartok all added eight points, while Snjolfur Bjornsson scored seven points and Justin Younger along with Gabe Oglesby each scored six points.
It was a night that head coach Randy Smithpeters was proud and pleased that his whole group stepped up and played to their abilities.
"We had hoped for that kind of fire and intensity and expected it. Benton is a team that has given us a hard time. We played them over there back around the first of January and it's tied after the end of the first quarter. We didn't want that kind of battle tonight, we wanted to come out and play our best basketball.
"I'm really happy that they did.," Smithpeters said. "We played for 32 minutes. We really hoped to step up to the level that we want to play with through the tournament time and stay there. We don't want to be a team that is up and down because it's life on the bubble and one bad night and you're out."
Harrisburg came out clicking on all cylinders, shooting 11-for-16 from the field in the first quarter and 4-of-6 from beyond the arc to take a quick 28-6 lead.
The onslaught continued in the second quarter as Harrisburg went 5-of-9 from beyond the arc as they led 50-16 at the break.
The Bulldogs shot 13-of-29 from 3-point range as Henshaw had three, while Amaya, Bartok and Younger each had two. Smithpeters had one and for good measure Upchurch had two tries from downtown, but the 6-foot-6 big man was unable to connect.
Page 2 of 2 - For a Harrisburg team, that has spent first part of the year as the state's No. 1 team in 2A, despite playing like it in certain games, sure looked the part Friday night.
Smithpeters wasn't at all alarmed at how easy it was for his team to flip the switch.
"What we did tonight is what we can do." Smithpeters said. "We did our jobs, we ran our offense, which is something we didn't do very well at Benton. In running our offense, we can get people the shots they need to get. We had an inside game and an outside game tonight. We got outlet passes out of the rebounds and the ball down the floor. We defended; they had 16 points at halftime. We did all the things we have to do to do our job."
Harrisburg will now begin postseason play as they will play the winner of tonight's (Monday) first round Class 2A Regional game at Eldorado between West Frankfort and the host Eagles on Wednesday night at 6 p.m.
West Frankfort and Eldorado tip off at 6 p.m., followed by Benton and Vienna at 7:30 p.m. The winner of Benton and Vienna will play No. 2 seed Johnston City Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
The championship game of the Eldorado Class 2A Regional will be Friday at 7:30 p.m, with the winner advancing to the West Frankfort Sectional next week.