The Harrisburg boys basketball team starts the homestretch of the regular season with a .500 record with the hopes its excellent showing at the 42nd annual Carmi-White County Invitational Tournament will get them over the hump to start the playoffs in a few weeks with momentum.
"I'm proud of our kids," said Harrisburg coach Andy Fehrenbacher. "It was a very competitive tournament, and we had a good week. It would have been nice to win our last game, but we came up short."
The Bulldogs finished last week with a 10-10 record after splitting the four games with wins over Fairfield and Evansville Day and losses to Carmi-White County and Mt.Vernon, Ind.
"We keep hovering at .500," Fehrenbacher said. "It would be nice to get a few games over that .500 mark, but we just haven't been able to do that yet. I feel we're starting to jell and come together. We have four days of practice this week, which is really important because we have things to clean up. I feel we are in pretty good shape for the stretch run."
Harrisburg finished third in the round robin tournament behind Carmi (4-0), Mt. Vernon (3-1) and ahead of Evansville Day (0-4). Junior guard Camron Ande finished as the third leading scorer with 96 points and was tied for sixth in rebounds with 21 to be named to the All-Tournament Team.
Harrisburg began the week at .500 for the fifth time this season after a hard-fought loss to powerhouse Herrin (19-2) and it got off to an exciting if not satisfying start with a 53-49 overtime loss to Carmi (17-4).
The Carmi Bulldogs got off to a great start taking a 19-8 lead after the first quarter.
"We came out flat and Carmi put it on us early hitting a bunch of 3's," Fehrenbacher said. "We started chipping away and had a better second quarter. We were very lucky to be down by six at the half. It could have been a lot worse."
The Harrisburg Bulldogs built on their second quarter momentum and took the lead after the third quarter, 37-35.
"In the fourth quarter we were down 41-40 and Cam was fouled on a 3-point attempt with two seconds left, so he went to the line to shoot three free throws, but the bad thing was he missed the first, made the second and missed the third," Fehrenbacher said.
The overtime got off a bad start with Harrisburg turning the ball over on its first three possessions.
"You can't have three straight turnovers in a four-minute overtime and expect to win," Fehrenbacher said. "They led by two points and we were putting on pressure at the top and one of our guys fell down and had a dunk at the buzzer."
Ande scored 21 points with Nate Lawrence finishing with a season-high 12 points.
"We were still without Myles Crank and yet we had them on the ropes," Fehrenbacher said. "We had opportunities, but didn't capitalize, so we turned the page and went back there the next day to compete again."
Against Fairfield the Bulldogs trailed 9-8 after the first quarter, 23-21 at the half and 38-29 after three quarters.
"They had a real big third quarter and it just felt like we couldn't do anything right," Fehrenbacher said. "Then once again we came roaring back in the fourth. We hit a bunch of shots with Ande making two 3's. With the score tied Karmello Downey had a runner in the lane that just missed that would have won the game for us."
The overtime began with the two teams exchanging baskets. The game was tied with 40 seconds left when the Bulldogs committed a turnover to give the Foxes a two-point lead.
"We came down and with 15 seconds left we called a timeout," Fehrenbacher explained. "They had fouls to give and fouled us a couple times. With eight seconds left we had it on the baseline and ran a little play with Cam in the corner. They double-teamed him, so Cam made a nice pass to Nate on the block and he made a nice move. We were actually hoping to just pick up a foul and get two free throws to tie it up, but lo and behold he made the shot and was fouled and made the free throw which allowed us to win by one with two seconds left."
Ande scored 19 points with Lawrence again scoring 12 and Charlie Fehrenbacher scoring 10 for his best game of the season at that time. Crank came off the bench to score five points.
Two days later Harrisburg beat Evansville Day in a shootout, 82-72, with Ande scoring a career-high 34 points to tie for the game lead with Day's Tyler Myers. Lawrence again finished with 12 points and Crank 10.
Harrisburg trailed 23-17 after the first quarter and was down 44-34 at the half.
"Again we got down a bunch and at one point was down by 19," Fehrenbacher said. "They scored three straight times to open the third quarter and had another little run and we down by 19. Then all of a sudden we started hitting shots. The pace picked up and they kept shooting pretty fast, which allowed us to keep going, and the next thing you know we're back in it."
The Bulldogs cut the lead to 61-57 after the third quarter behind 11 points by Ande and Crank's first basket of the game -- a 3-pointer.
"We wore them out in the fourth quarter," Fehrenbacher said. "The Myers kid, who led the tournament in scoring, we actually held him scoreless in the fourth quarter. He's an unbelievable scorer. That kid moves real well and having a quick kid on him didn't seem to bother him. So what we did was switch defensive assignments and put Ross Rider on him. Having a stronger kid who could body him more, that bothered him."
Friday night the Bulldogs lost to Mt. Vernon, Ind., 63-49. Harrisburg fell behind 23-10 after the first quarter and maintained that margin at the half, 36-23, before cutting it to two going into the fourth quarter.
"It's kind of the theme of the week -- we get behind and then have to fight back," Fehrenbacher said. "We tied it up, but ran out of gas in the fourth quarter. They didn't play Monday and Wednesday, so it was only their third game. While we had played Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at that point, so we had only one day of rest and were running on empty at the end."
Fehrenbacher was the leading scorer with 17 points followed by Ande with 16 and four points each from Crank and Andrew Unthank.
The Bulldogs will have a much-needed five days off this week with only one game on the schedule against River-to-River Ohio Division foe West Frankfort at home. Harrisburg beat the Redbirds, 61-49, in its first meeting at West Frankfort.
"This is coming at a pretty good time," Fehrenbacher said. "We had had injuries with Crank now coming off the bench and Charlie back in starting lineup. They are not quite a 100%, but they are having an impact. We've had some other injuries and now guys are starting to get healthy."
Harrisburg is currently tied for third in the conference with Murphysboro at 3-2 one game behind Massac County and Herrin at 4-1 and ahead of Benton (1-4) and West Frankfort (0-5).