Harrisburg couldn"t find any success on the road or at home over the weekend, dropping a pair of games to Benton and Murphysboro.
With an all-around team effort, the Rangers earned a 53-44 victory over the visiting Bulldogs.
"Harrisburg does a really good job at guarding…different than what we see from other teams," said Ron Winemiller, Rangers coach. "It takes time to get used to it and once we did get used to it, we did fine."
The home team took possession of the ball from the tipoff, but the Bulldogs stole it away and Hunter Smith (4 points) put up the first points of the night. His teammates Jordan Bartok (6 points), Jordan Gould (6 points) and Carson Burtis (6 points) padded the Bulldogs" lead to 9-4—point scorers for the Rangers being Parker Williams (10 points) and Derek Oxford (17 points).
Smith put up his second layup of the night, but it was responded by Austin Wills (11 points) and another jumper by Oxford to keep the home team behind by two points.
Burtis tossed up a 3-pointer late in the first to keep his team ahead. In the last minute, the Bulldogs got into foul trouble and put junior Gehrig Wynn (6 points) at the free throw line where he drained both shots.
The Rangers, still behind after one, started the second quarter with eyes set on taking the lead. Oxford started his team off in the right direction with his solo 3-pointer in the first minute of the quarter. Then, Williams tallied a pair of points to give the lead to the Rangers.
But the Bulldogs would not give up easily and leading point-scorer Isaiah Saulsberry (24 points) put up a jump shot to take the lead (18-17) again. After a brief huddle, the Rangers came back to the court refocused and Oxford drained a bucket to take the lead which the Rangers would not give back for the remainder of the game.
The home team went on an 8-point streak with help from Hamilton Page (4 points) and more free throw buckets from Wynn. Going into the half, the Rangers took a 7-point lead (27-20) to the locker rooms.
"We came up here with a starter that"s been out for two weeks and with a lot of baggage," said Randy Smithpeters, Bulldogs coach. "I"m very proud of the way they competed… I don"t think the final score indicates the quality. Being shorthanded was a concern, but we"re working to get back to full strength."
Back in the action, Saulsberry shot seven of the nine points scored by the Bulldogs. For the Rangers, Wills added his solo 3-pointer of the game and senior Timmy Henson added his solo bucket of the night.
Into the final quarter, both teams earned the majority of their points at the free throw line. The Rangers made eight trips to the line and scored 15 of 16 opportunities. Meanwhile the Bulldogs went to the line six times—five of which were shots by Saulsberry — and scored seven of their 11 opportunities.
On Saturday night, in the regular season home finale and senior night, Harrisburg fell 42-39 to Murphysboro.
Bulldog seniors Axavier Doss, Austin Hefner, Jordan Gould and Noah Ferell were recognized before the game, along with senior cheerleader and band members.
Isaiah Saulsberry had a team-high 17 points and the junior guard"s 15-foot- floater with 1:42 to play made it a 39-36 ballgame. Harrisburg then sent Jaron Gaston with 46.9 to play to the line, where he made 1-of-2 free throws to make it a four-point 40-36 ballgame.
Saulsberry again answered on the Bulldogs" end, drilling a wide-open 3-pointer with 25 seconds to play and get to within one. Gaston went back to the free throw line with 23.7 and made both free throws and on the ensuing possession, Saulsberry"s runner, followed by Ferrell"s putback attempt failed, giving the Red Devils the SIRR Ohio victory.
"I"m very happy with our performance," Smithpeters said. "We came out and knew we could play well and still get lose. I thought we did about everything we could do. Our goal, with two minutes to go, was to have a chance to win and I thought we defended well.
"Murphysboro is a very physical team and that"s something that we really have to work at (being physical) and I think (Saturday) made us a little more physical, which we want to get better and I think this game made us better."
Harrisburg is at Carterville on Tuesday and closes out the regular season Friday at Herrin.
Murphysboro 10 13 12 07 — 42
Harrisburg 06 13 09 11 — 39
Murphysboro (42): Gibbs 2 0-0 5, Greenwood 1 0-0 2, J. Gaston 3 4-6 10, Marston 4 2-3 10, House 6 0-0 15. Totals 16 6-9 42.
Harrisburg (39): Smith 3 0-1 6, Saulsberry 7 1-2 17, Gould 1 0-0 2, Ferrell 1 0-2 2, Bartok 1 0-2 2, Burtis 3 0-0 8, Sanders 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 1-7 39.
3-pointers: Murphysboro 4 (House 3, Gibbs), Harrisburg 4 (Saulsberry 2, Burtis 2). Team Fouls: Murphysboro 11, Harrisburg 14. Records: Murphysboro is 18-5 (7-1), Harrisburg is 10-14 (3-6).
Carrier Mills 43, Hardin County 40
Justice Hill was the lone Carrier Mills-Stonefort player to score in double figures as the senior finished with 15 points in a 43-40 win over Hardin County Friday night.
Brody Walker netted nine points for the Wildcats (12-12 overall, 3-3 Greater Egyptian Conference), while Dylan Schwartz scored seven points. Will Gibbs and Billy Lewis each had six points, closing out the scoring for CMSF.
Carrier Mills-Stonefort and Hardin County were tied at 11 after one quarter of play and at 21 at halftime. CMSF outscored Hardin County 11-8 in the third quarter to take a 34-29 lead and were able to hold off the cougars in the final eight minutes of action.
Carrier Mills-Stonefort travels to Norris City-Omaha-Enfield Tuesday and will host Galatia on Friday night.