WEST FRANKFORT — The Nashville Hornets went without a point for nearly eight minutes across two quarters Friday by the Harrisburg Bulldogs, who went on to capture the West Frankfort Class 2A Sectional title with a 52-26 victory.
The Bulldogs (30-1) finished the first half on a 14-point run and later opened up a 30-point advantage in the third period.
"I thought tonight was a very hard battle, and I've got to pat Nashville on the back for playing as hard as they did and as tough as they did," said Harrisburg coach Randy Smithpeters. "I'm happy for our guys and the way they battled at both ends of the floor. I'm always happy with our defense.
"I've talked about it all year long where we're going to hit the game where we're not going to score 74 points, but we still want to win. I thought tonight was that case exactly."
Sam Brown buried a 3-pointer to pull Nashville within 14-12 at the 6:01 mark of the second quarter. But Harrisburg continued its fierce pressure and shut the Nashville offense down for almost a quarter of action.
"They really put the defensive pressure on us, and I really felt like we guarded as well as we could guard," Nashville coach Brad Weathers said. "They are one of the better teams I've seen in a long time."
Capel Henshaw made a 3 from the corner and Tyler Smithpeters delivered a slick layup from the baseline to extend the lead. Harrisburg led by 11 points late in the quarter when Tyler Smithpeters stepped back for a 3-pointer, and he finished the half with a layup for a 28-12 advantage.
A major contributor for Harrisburg was 6-foot-3 senior guard Ryne Roper who had to guard Nashville's 6-6 standout Royce Newman when Dakota Upchurch went to the bench with foul trouble.
Newman only scored four points in the game, and the defense from Roper was one of the reasons why.
"Coming into the game I didn't know he was going to be that big and that strong, especially as a freshman," Roper said. "He's a heck of a player, and I couldn't have done it without some help in the back."
Roper buried a jump shot early in the third quarter to cap off an 18-0 Harrisburg run and extend the lead to 20 points.
"The game ball goes to Ryne Roper, and I think there is no question about that," said Randy Smithpeters.
Newman knocked a down a jump shot moments later to end the scoring drought for the Hornets. But it was all Harrisburg the rest of the quarter.
Nashville finished with a record of 24-8. The Hornets won the Southern Illinois River-to-River Mississippi Division and picked up a regional title as well.
Brown and Daniel Thorson led Nashville with five points apiece. Tyler Smithpeters and Eli Taborn-Scott paced Harrisburg with 17 points apiece. Henshaw contributed 13 as well.
Harrisburg advances to face Teutopolis in the Carbondale Super-Sectional at SIU Arena at 8 p.m. Tuesday.