The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Harrisburg home to school's first ever state title

  • It was a title fight that would have made Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White proud.
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  • It was a title fight that would have made Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White proud.
    With the IHSA Class 2A state championship on the line Saturday night at Carver Arena in Peoria, physicality played as much of a role as pull up jumpers and pushing the ball up the court.
    In the end, after all the pushing, punching, scratching and clawing, it was Harrisburg that delivered the knockout blow, giving the Bulldogs the 50-44 victory in a Rocky-type, come-from-behind fashion.
    Harrisburg hoisted the trophy in front of a “hometown crowd” atmosphere, who were electric from start to finish.
    That electricity could have been from a spark lighted by Harrisburg senior Ryne Roper and then fueled by Tyler Smithpeters as the duo combined for back-to-back 3-pointers in the third quarter that tied the game on Roper’s three ball from the corner pocket and then grabbed the lead on Smithpeters’ pull up pop and shot from the top of the key to give Harrisburg a 36-33 lead with 3:18 left to play.
    The Bulldogs closed out the third quarter with the 36-38 advantage heading into the game’s final eight minutes where Harrisburg dug down deep inside, looking for eight more minutes of glory.
    That glory may have come at 4:29 when Smithpeters got the deuce and abuse, looked up in the crowd at his family and gave the “And-1” sign.
    If that wasn’t good enough, Capel Henshaw electrified the crowd with one of the prettiest up and under moves, giving Harrisburg a 45-38 lead with 3:46 to play.
    Clinging to a five-point lead and with 2:36 to play, sophomore sensation Bahari Amaya stepped to the line and calmly sunk two free throws to give Harrisburg a 47-40 lead.
    The Bulldogs never backed down, never looked back and joined in unison to celebrate the school's first basketball title.
    The six-point win didn't come easy. Not even close.
    Harrisburg had to overcome plenty of adversity in the first half, including a slew of fouls, which resulted in two technicals and an ejection.
    Capel Henshaw had to exit the game early in the first half with scratches to the side of his face and arms. Dakota Upchurch was saddled to the bench with three fouls, one of which resulted in a technical foul.
    It was a chippy contest in the first half that saw Harrisburg called for nine fouls, while making 13-of-17 from the free throw line.
    Perhaps the Bulldogs’ saving grace is the fact that Seton went 3-of-11 from the charity stripe in the first half.
    But the game got really interesting when Mark Weems Jr., was whistled for a technical foul and then bumped an official, resulting in an ejection. Henshaw went to the free throw line where he made all four free throws. On the ensuing inbounds for the Bulldogs, Snjolfur Bjornsson popped a deuce to get Harrisburg back in the ballgame at 23-21.
    Page 2 of 2 - Harrisburg clawed its way back from a 10-point halftime deficit and walked into the locker room, trailing 24-23.
    Foul trouble continued to plague Harrisburg, especially in the third quarter when Harrisburg’s Dakota Upchurch was sent to the bench with his fourth foul.
    Back-to-back 3-pointers by Ryne Roper and Tyler Smithpeters ties contest and then gives Harrisburg first lead of game at 36-33 with 3:18 to play in third quarter.
    Moments later Smithpeters knocked down a pair of free throws to give Harrisburg a 38-35 lead, their biggest of the ballgame.
    The Bulldogs never looked back.
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