If there was no power in Duff-Kingston Gymnasium Friday night, the energy and electricity that Harrisburg brought to the championship game of the Eldorado Class 2A Regional final would have lit the storied gymnasium up for days.
In a building that has been Harrisburg’s home-away-from-home, the Bulldogs cruised to a 77-46 victory Friday night, winning the fourth straight regional title and the fifth in the last six years for head coach Randy Smithpeters.
Mainly because of Harrisburg’s involvement in the Eldorado Holiday Tournament, the Bulldogs won their 16th straight game at Duff-Kingston, as well as 19th out of their last 20th. It was the 21st overall game for this senior class at Eldorado.
Smithpeters is in his 20th year on the sideline as the Bulldogs’ and when asked what he shares in common with this particular group of seniors, forced the head coach to ponder sitting down and putting it all on paper.
“It’s amazing what this group has been able to accomplish,“ Smithpeters said. “This is there upteeth win here at Eldorado and their record here is amazing. They have won 16 straight and are like 19-1 in their last 20 games. Then you go to the trophies and the titles over the last four years and you can look at their overall record 106-22, it’s there, the history is there, but we’re more interested in the future.”
As for right now, the future means a Wednesday night date with Chester at the West Frankfort Sectional.
The winner of that game would play the Nashville-Mt. Carmel winner Friday night for the 2A Sectional Championship and a date in next Monday night’s Super-Sectional at the SIU Arena in Carbondale.
Harrisburg senior Tyler Smithpeters has plenty of team hardware to stare at, so when prompted about his feelings the unsigned guard who had 14 points for the Bulldogs said that he was just happy to do what his dad preached.
“We’ve won a regional every year so far. It’s pretty big,” Smithpeters said. “We did what my dad preached to us. I think we were ready for (Benton). I know we played them last Friday and won, but regional championships don’t come along very often.”
It was a rough start for Benton, who has won regional titles the past two seasons and has been in the title game all four years, under new coach Ron Winemiller.
The Rangers’ first five possessions all resulted in turnovers, while Harrisburg used every opportunity to capitalize. The Bulldogs built a 24-1 lead in just the game’s first five minutes before Dylan Sheeks made Benton’s first bucket with 2:57 left in the first.
Page 2 of 2 - The Bulldogs closed out the first quarter up 30-9 and took a more than comfortable 53-16 lead into the locker room.
“Our concern or something that we deliberated was that Benton might come out and play a slow-type game and basically hold the possessions down,” Randy Smithpeters said. “We knew that the defensive end was going to be important, we also knew that we needed quality on the offensive end, so that we didn’t get behind. It was just nice to see everything work out the way we needed it too.”
In good taste, Smithpeters pulled his troops midway through the fourth quarter with Harrisburg holding a 61-18 lead.
Ryne Roper, who had eight first quarter points and finished with nine, said that one of the team’s biggest keys is to get out to a quick start and use a lot of energy.
“We pride ourselves on the defensive end and our goal is to give up less than 44 points, which is our average for the year and we were able to do that, Roper said. ““Just going out with a championship is something that’s really special. Doing it here, it’s kind of been a home-away-from-home place for us. This is all really neat.”
NOTES: Harrisburg’s Ryne Roper advanced in Friday night’s Country Financial Three Point Showdown in a shoot off and will now compete Friday at the West Frankfort Sectional. Also advancing were Eldorado’s Tyler Deaton, along with West Frankfort’s Trenton Easley and Johnston City’s Austin McPheron. ... Deaton made the most, knocking down 11 3-pointers. ...Also representing Harrisburg in the Three Point Showdown were Gabe Oglesby, Caleb Bartok and Jarren Goldman. ... Oglesby made eight, along with Roper in the first round and went to a shoot off. ... Bartok scored two points in Harrisburg’s 74-38 win over West Frankfort Wednesday night.
Michael Dann can be reached at hbgsports@dailyregister. com Follow Michael Dann on Twitter @spydieshooter.