Friday, January 13, 2012

Harding boys win must win game over Berry, after Berry girls win thriller

Harding High’s Rams treated Friday’s battle of Alleghany as a do-or-die game.

Harding, No. 8 in the boys’ Sweet 16, beat neighborhood rival Berry Academy 61-52 in a key MEGA-7 3A 4A game on the Cardinals’ home court. The Rams (14-3, 3-3) played like a team desperate to remain in the hunt for the conference championship, creating separation in the second half and maintaining it down the stretch.

“This was our lifeline,” Rams coach Walter Aikens said. “We had to win this. We couldn’t leave out of here with nothing less than a victory, because if we lose, we’re behind (Charlotte) Catholic and Berry. We had to win and the guys knew it.”

Berry’s Alisha Quinn swished a jump shot from the left wing with 1.7 seconds to push the No. 5 Cardinals to a 40-38 overtime win against No. 16 Harding and sole possession of first place in the MEGA-7 girls’ standings. Essence Baucom led Berry (14-1, 6-0) with 13 points, followed by Milan Quinn’s 10, including a basket with 5.8 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Alexius Hampton, who paced Harding (12-2, 5-1) with 15 points, including a pair of free throws at 3 minutes, 35 seconds left in overtime.

Harding forward Emmanuel Patton came up big with 14 of his game-high 22 points in the second half, mainly on drives to the basket or breakaways. A 7-0 run sparked by Patton and Jarvis Haywood (19 points) put the Rams ahead for good at 40-34 midway through the third quarter and Patton’s eight points in the fourth kept Harding there.

“He’s becoming a scorer,” Aikens said. Last year, he probably averaged eight points for us and this year, he’s almost doubled his points. He’s coming on game by game and it’s really relieving pressure off Jarvis,” the only other Ram to hit double-figures with 19 points.

DaJuan Graf and Cazmon Hayes led Berry Academy (12-4, 3-3) with 13 points each and Osandai Vaughn added 12, but the Cardinals struggled after taking a 19-15 lead into the second quarter. The shots that fell for Berry in the first quarter became more difficult to come by as Harding tightened its grip on defense.

“Harding really outplayed us,” Cardinals coach Carlton Anthony said. “Early in the game we had too many turnovers. Our team has to learn how to play team ball. We were trying to be too selfish, trying to rely on one-on-one too much instead of running our system.”

-- Correspondent Herb White