It’s been said that the slogan March Madness was invented in Illinois.
It was on true display Friday night when Harrisburg and St. Jospeh-Ogden hooked up in the IHSA Class 2A State Tournament semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria.
Arguably one of the biggest X-factors for the Bulldogs in their quest for the school’s first state championship is 20-year veteran coach Randy Smithpeters.
No stranger to the game, Smithpeters had a long and extensive talk with his team in the locker-room prior to taking the floor with the Spartans in the semifinals Friday night.
His advice to his kids: There will be good times and there will be bad times.
How they would balance themselves out - not even Smithpeters could say.
“Often times when you play a good team it’s not going to be eight minutes of bliss, followed by eight minutes of bliss. It’s going to be tough times sometimes and good times the others. That’s exactly what this ended up being. I’m very happy with the way it ended, but we haven’t had a lot of test like that at the three or four minute mark in the game in question. We have had very few games where we had the challenge we had Friday night.”
Defense was again key to Friday night’s matchup.
Harrisburg held St. Joseph-Ogden to 28 percent shooting from the floor and 24 percent from behind the arc.
Harrisburg shot 52 percent from the field and another 50 from beyond the arc.
One of the most telling stats for Smithpeters however was on the rebounding end.
Harrisburg was dominated on the glass, getting outrebounded 35-28. However, 23 of those rebounds were on the defensive end.
“The biggest word on our board in the dressing room was rebounds and that was put on there before we took the floor,” Smithpeters said. “I thought that was the biggest fact, biggest negative factor. We got beat on the boards and especially offensive boards. I thought St. Joseph-Ogden was a physical team and I don’t mean in a dirty way, but they went to the boards hard and that’s what we expected and we didn’t react to that very well.”
In what ended up being a game of runs, and one where Harrisburg had to weather a storm from St. Joseph-Ogden, Smithpeters acknowledged how fortunate he felt to win Friday night’s game.
“I’m very proud of the way our group responded to that kind of pressure at both ends of the floor. We really stress defense a lot and I thought our defense did a good job. I felt like we put a lot of pressure on St. Joseph-Ogden and didn’t allow a lot of open shots. They are a good 3-point shooting team. I can’t say I’m not happy with the defense, other than the rebounding side of it.”
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