Harrisburg — It was a game that tested their resiliency, patience, and ability to come together when it matters most. The fourth ranked Harrisburg Eagles played host in a MLK Day special to the Dayton Pirates, looking to get to 15-1 on the season against a Pirate team that can shoot the ball at will but have struggled over their last few games. For the Eagles, its their final non-conference matchup before entering break neck speed conference play on Wednesday against La Pine.
Harrisburg opened the game with Haidyn Bucher getting them on the board first, but Dayton’s Taylor Wilson would hit a trey and another bucket to make it 5-2 Dayton early. Trailing 7-5, Harrisburg went on an 8-0 run led by Bucher and Brecken Cox treys, alongside Emmalee Smathers cleaning up in the paint. Wilson hit a couple of more treys to end the first quarter, which had Harrisburg ahead 14-13 after one. In a very anti-climatic second frame, both teams struggled from the field and it showed on the scoreboard, as the Pirates would outscore the Eagles 6-5 in the quarter to lead 20-19 at the half in Harrisburg.
Coming out of the locker room, Harrisburg would take the lead back 21-20 on a Delaney Buzzard bucket, but the Pirates would start finding their assault from behind the arc. Anchored by Renika Oliveira, Dayton would light up with four treys accounting for 12 points in the quarter, while Harrisburg made work in the paint to keep pace. Dayton would extend their lead to 32-27 after three, with the treys aiding their rise and ability to stay out in front. Just like with the second quarter, offense wasn’t to be seen in the fourth, as Dayton only managed to score a lone bucket from Oliveira and a pair of free throws down the stretch. Harrisburg would fight with their own free throws, alongside a clutch trey by Ali Holland. With less than 10 seconds remaining and trailing by two points, Buzzard took the ball to the rack and scored on a crashed in Pirate defense, tying the game up and sending it to overtime.
The overtime period followed a completely different script, coming down to who could hit their free throws better down the stretch. Jenna Traw would hit a bucket on the opening possession to put Harrisburg up by a pair, but the rest of the period would be defined by double bonus free throws in what ultimately became a free throw contest. Harrisburg would execute better from the line than Dayton, pushing the Eagles past the Pirates 43-39 in overtime. Although combining for more than half their points, Harrisburg would find a way to defeat the combo of Renika Oliveira and Taylor Wilson, using a balanced attack that executed in both the paint and from downtown.
Harrisburg: They played Russian Roulette with the Pirates using a 2-3 zone, daring Dayton to hit their threes and they would for a while. 21 of Dayton’s 39 points came from downtown, showing the level of execution they brought to the floor against the Eagles. Ultimately, Harrisburg’s multi-dimensional offense, paint defense, and free throw execution put them over the top. The Eagles should be happy about where they’re at entering conference play, where Santiam Christian is their only real threat to win it against them. Also, big credit to the team effort it took to win this one, Dayton didn’t make it easy and it was a test that the Eagles needed to pass.
Dayton: Their perimeter offense almost got them the win, but their overall execution was their downfall. Inability to execute from turnovers, missed open layups, and overreliance on the three-ball cost them big. Their defense was solid by most measures, but that offense will be their Achillies heel entering conference play. If they can clean up their offensive execution, they can get back into their early season form that made them a 3A threat at the beginning of the season.