For nearly 18 minutes Tuesday night, it looked like the postseason might be short-lived for the Harrisburg Bulldogs. Then it all changed. The Bulldogs turned a 16-point deficit into a 72-60 win over Robinson in the 2A Lawrenceville regional semifinals with a huge second half sparked by senior Isaiah Saulsberry.
Saulsberry finished with 31 points and scored his club's first 10 points out of halftime.
Harrisburg found itself trailing 54-48 heading into the final quarter. But HHS would open the final frame on a 12-0 run and held the Maroons without a field goal for more than four minutes. To cap off the huge second half rally, Saulsberry's steal and slam dunk with 1:44 to play pushed the Bulldog advantage to 67-58 and also lifted the senior past Capel Henshaw for first place on the school's all-time scoring list.
"The second half, the bottom line is, we played with energy," said Harrisburg coach Randy Smithpeters. "Just a different group took the floor with energy on the defensive end, with energy on rebounds, with energy on the offensive end, and I have said all along to this group that when they play hard, that they are very, very good. I think they proved that in the second half."
Blake Drue finished with 16 points and Dalton Lambert added 12 for the Bulldogs (23-7) who have now won three in a row. Teammate Carson Burtis added eight points.
The Maroons (15-13) had won 11 of their previous 12 contests entering Tuesday night and had success going inside during the first half.
Six-foot-five Walker Sandschafer finished with 26 points and junior Chance Black dropped in 20.
"We didn't get off to the start we wanted," said Smithpeters. "We had prepared for them and the things they did were the exact same things that we had prepared for, we just didn't defend it well enough. We didn't play with the energy in the first half that you have to have against a team like Robinson which is a very, very good team."
Saulsberry now has 1,886 career points, two more than Henshaw, and has scored 596 this season.
"It's great that he got it tonight," said Smithpeters. "It was a great performance for him, a great accomplishment and people have to realize how hard he has worked to be able to do that and how much time he's put in."
Harrisburg will meet Mount Carmel Friday at 7 p.m. for the regional championship in Lawrenceville. The Golden Aces pulled away from Red Hill for a 56-43 semifinal win in Tuesday's first game. Mount Carmel edged HHS, 61-60, at the Carmi-White County Invitational in mid-January. It will mark the eighth regional championship game appearance in the last nine years for Harrisburg.
Robinson 16 22 16 6 - 60
Harrisburg 8 16 24 24 - 72
Robinson (60): Scott 2 0-0 4, Sandschaffer 11 4-6 26, Childress 0 3-4 3, Black 8 4-4 20, Smith 2 0-0 5, Lassen 0 2-2 2. Totals 23 13-16 60.
Harrisburg (72): Drue 6 3-5 16, Burtis 2 3-3 8, Saulsberry 12 3-4 31, Lambert 4 4-5 12, Gibbs 1 0-0 2, Sanders 1 1-2 3. Totals 26 14-19 72.
3-pointers: Robinson 1 (Smith), Harrisburg 6 (Saulsberry 4, Drue, Burtis). Team Fouls: Robinson 20, Harrisburg 15. Records: Robinson finishes 15-13, Harrisburg is 23-7.