NORTH BEND — Despite a league championship and state tournament berth, the Harrisburg Eagles haven’t quite put together a full game of basketball.
Thursday night Harrisburg finally put together the closest thing resembling a full game Eagles coach Tim Yokum had seen all year in a 49-36 win over the Blanchet Catholic Cavaliers at North Bend High School.
“I would say it’s one of our best games offensively,” Yokum said. “Defensively, we held them to what, 36, 37 points? That’s our goal. We’re shooting to hold teams to 40 and under. Good teams, that’s hard sometimes. Good players are gonna score.”
Harrisburg led by nine after the first quarter and at halftime despite not having senior wing Tel Jones for much of the first half. After going for a rebound, Jones came down on a teammate's head with his face and had to leave the game with a swollen right eye.
Jones sat with an icepack or towel over the injured eye for the remainder of the first half and didn’t start the second. His return was a boon for the Eagles, who weren't quite as sound offensively without him.
With or without Jones, Harrisburg had a lot of success in fast breaks and in a certain offensive set. Harrisburg got numerous second-half baskets on a backdoor lob play designed to use Blanchet’s defensive aggressiveness against it.
It worked, helping Harrisburg slowly extend its lead.
“It was a little adjustment,” Jones said of the backdoor play. “We just used our athleticism well, got up around the rim and finished pretty easy shots.”
Jones led Harrisburg with 14 points. Stephen Parmenter (12) and Alonzo Ranch (10) were also in double figures for Harrisburg.
Defensively, Harrisburg kept standout sophomore guard RJ Veliz in check. Veliz scored 16 points for Blanchet, but was only 5-for-15 from the floor as Harrisburg focused its defensive attention on him.
Veliz wanted to drive and kick, using his athleticism and skill to get into the key and either shoot, get fouled or find an open teammate.
Harrisburg didn’t collapse hard on the sophomore, instead taking away those passing options and trying to take charges. Yokum wasn’t so excited about how Harrisburg did the latter, and said his Eagles benefited, perhaps, from Veliz tiring down the stretch.
“We threw a couple different guys on him and tried to make him create,” Yokum said. “That’s hard for someone, to take over a game.”
Blanchet coach Scott Cantonwine wasn’t disappointed in how the Cavaliers played. Harrisburg is an experienced unit with a handful of guys who played on the Eagles’ state championship football team.
Cantonwine saw Harrisburg’s experience in how it handled the moment of playing in the quarterfinals of the state tournament mostly, but the Cavaliers' youth manifested itself in other places, too.
“That’s what happens when you play against a senior team,” Cantonwine said. “They’re hard-workers, good kids, great athletes. Tonight I don’t think our immaturity showed, but certainly our physical stature.”
Cantonwine also lamented some frustrating offensive possessions that ended in Harrisburg baskets. Harrisburg scored 13 points off Blanchet turnovers. The Cavaliers got just two points off mistakes by the Eagles.
“We didn’t turn the ball over that much, but boy, when we did turn it over — I think there were four or five that were in essence a four-point turnaround,” Cantonwine said. “We not only turned it over, but it led directly to a basket.”
Joey Knox and Parmenter hit 3s on consecutive possessions to break a brief cold spell to start the game. After trailing 2-0, Harrisburg led the rest of the way, holding leads as big as 16.
Yokum hopes the Eagles’ trajectory can maintain its upward direction. Jones wants his second title in as many sports this school year.
“It’s been four years in the making to get here,” Jones said of getting to the semifinals. “It’s a great feeling.”
Harrisburg will face De La Salle North Catholic in the semifinals Friday at Marshfield at 8:15 p.m. Amity faces Blanchet Catholic in the consolation bracket at 10:45 a.m.