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St. C. Gets By Harrison in OT

Photo by Kristin Mazgaj St. Clairsville junior Drew Sefsick rips down one of his 11 rebounds during the second half of Tuesday’s game against Harrison Central.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Tuesday night’s meeting between St. Clairsville and Harrison Central on John Jenkins Court at St. Clairsville High School had a little bit of everything.

Whether it was a leg up in the Buckeye 8 South race or even sibling rivalry, neither the Red Devils nor Huskies were going to be denied. So much so that the scheduled 32 minutes needed to be extended.

In the end, it was the Red Devils who found a way to pull out a 78-74 victory to manage a split of the season series with the Huskies and put themselves on the inside track toward another Buckeye 8 South championship.

“I think both teams played every possession, from the tip, like it was the last,” a satisfied Ryan Clifford said. “That’s a hard thing to maintain throughout an entire game, but I think both teams really played that way most of the game.”

Indeed.

Despite the limited attendance due to COVID-19 restrictions, the game featured about as close to a tournament environment as can be created with the lack of crowds.

Unfortunately, for the Huskies, they came out on the short end. It didn’t take Justin Clifford long to pinpoint the issue that stood between victory and defeat for his team. The 27 turnovers the Huskies committed were clearly their undoing.

“We made too many unforced mistakes and threw them the ball too much,” a disappointed Justin Clifford said.

“I thought we had corrected (the turnovers) after halftime because we slowed down and played more under control. We just had too many of those to overcome.”

Many of those turnovers were of the live-ball variety that led to run-out chances. Two went to junior Colin Oberdick, who Ryan Clifford commended for the yeoman’s work he did in guarding Harrison Central standout senior Kobe Mitchell.

Still, however, despite all of the extra possessions and numerous easy scoring chances, the Red Devils simply couldn’t deliver a knock-out blow.

“It was back and forth,” Ryan Clifford said. “It’s definitely a nice thing to be on the other end of those live-ball turnovers for layups. We got just enough defensive stops. We changed defenses a couple of times and did some things that we normally don’t do, but (Harrison) forces you to do because they have (Mitchell) and I think we made the right rotation and got those turnovers.”

The Red Devils, who were also an impressive 23 of 31 from the foul line, came up empty on their final try in regulation, which Mitchell rebounded and went coast-to-cast with for the game-tying layup with just 4.3 seconds to play.

The Red Devils desperation try was nowhere close to the rim, sending the game into the overtime.

“My thought, going into OT, was, ‘We had a chance at the end of regulation (to win) and we didn’t capitalize,’ so you hope that doesn’t come back to haunt you,” Ryan Clifford said. “We’ve practiced a dozen times a four-minute offense and it hit (the kids) in the timeout that (overtime) is why we do it.”

The Huskies struck first in the overtime on a Cabot Arbaugh bucket. However, the Red Devils proceeded to score the next six. Junior Drew Sefsick, who sank 13 of 14 from the foul line, connected on a pair of charity tosses on the next two possessions. Junior Ryan McCort made it a 6-0 run with a field goal.

The Huskies got back within two when Mitchell drove to the basket for his 30th point of the game. The teams traded turnovers and St. Clairsville went into that delay offense that its head coach spoke about and ran off an extended amount of time before senior Will Balgo was fouled and sank 1 of 2.

With the clock turning under 20 seconds, Harrison Central, which had three starters disqualified because of fouls, settled for a couple of 3-point tries before the Red Devils collected the rebound and time expired.

“We got the early bucket on the first possession of the overtime and then we had some more of those unforced turnovers,” Justin Clifford said. “I think we walked once and threw it away without anyone guarding us. You just can’t do that in clutch situations. Both teams were trying not to lose and I think the bigger atmosphere got both teams kind of juiced up, which is what it’s all about.”

The Red Devils, who led by five at halftime and three after three, placed all five of their starters in double figures, which was a huge key to the overall success, according to their head coach.

“I told the kids during a time out, early in the game, that if we shared the ball and got all five guys in double figured, we’d win,” Ryan Clifford said. “We’ve been really good at the offensive end of late.”

The Red Devils were led by Balgo, who had the hot hand early. He pumped in 23 points and hit six bonus goals. He netted 16 of his points in the first half. Sefsick (19) and McCort (14) were next in line. Oberdick and junior post Avery Henry evenly divided 22.

Mitchell led the Huskies. He was backed by freshman sharpshooter Hayden Cassidy, who pumped in six 3-pointers and finished with 23 points. Mitchell also finished with eight rebounds.

Sefsick paced the Red Devils on the glass with 11 rebounds while Balgo and Henry each had six.

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