CADIZ - Justin Clifford spent most of Wednesday and Thursday's practice preaching to his Harrison Central Huskies about getting back to basics.
Evidently, the message came across loud and clear.
The homestanding Huskies celebrated Senior Night by clobbering Buckeye Local, 59-40, in front of a large turnout inside the John W. Stephenson Center.
''We've won some games lately, but not the way we would've liked to, and that's my fault,'' Clifford said. ''We got back to the old Huskies. We got after it pretty hard in practice the last two days, especially on the defensive end of the floor.''
The Panthers definitely noticed the difference. Buckeye Local (8-10) were limited to 12 field goals and half of those were what Coach Jay Morris didn't think were good shots from behind the arc.
''We were lucky we made some 3s that weren't good looks in the first half or we wouldn't have been nearly as close as we were,'' Morris said. ''The team that imposes its will on the other team usually wins it and they did that to us.
Clifford added: ''We talked all week about not worrying about the other team and worrying about us because we got away from some of the things we were doing earlier in the year.''
The Huskies scored the first seven points and were never challenged from there, leading 16-7 after one and 29-21 at the intermission.
A bevy of Huskies got into the scoring act. Talented pivot Nick Pelegreen led the way with 10 of his 12 in the first half. Senior Garrit Sproull scored seven of his 10 in the first quarter.
The Huskies erased any doubt of a Panthers rally in the third when they outscored the visitors 16-5. Junior guard Fletcher Watt scored eight of his team-high 13 points in the third.
Buckeye Local - which didn't take good care of the ball all evening with 19 turnovers - missed numerous inside shots that proved extremely costly.
''We played well defensively,'' Clifford said. ''Buckeye Local hit some big 3s in the first half that kept us from pulling away from them, but in the second half, we came out and gave it on the defensive end, which is a big reason why we won.''
Buckeye Local was led by Tyler Richardson, who scored 12 on four 3-pointers. A.J. Barsch added 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Harrison Central held a 38-30 edge on the boards. Junior Rasheen Mitchell yanked down 12 boards, while Pelegreen finished with eight.
The Huskies complete their pre-OVAC Tournament schedule with a strong 14-4 record and will trek to East Liverpool to compete in the 4A semifinals against the Potters.
''We've had some wake-up calls during this season and you need that at times because during the course of four months, you start feeling good about yourself,'' Clifford said. ''Does that mean we're going to win the state championship? No, by no means, but I thought we took a step in the right direction and I am pleased with that.
''We'll have our hands full with East Liverpool. They're athletic, they shoot the ball well and they're phyiscal, but other than that, they're not real good. They're ranked in the state, so we know we've got a tough task ahead, but I think we're up for it.''