It was a cat fight with a see-saw battle in the first half, then the Cougars grabbed a five point lead midway through the third period before Pendleton County commandeered a 10-0 run holding a four-point edge entering the last stanza.
The Wildcats took the lead as large as eight points in the fourth period staving off a rally by East Hardy that cut the deficit to one point with 1:25 remaining and sealed the 50-43 win at the free throw line on Friday night in Baker.
“Hats off to East Hardy, number one. They brought a lot of speed and intensity with the full court press. We had to make adjustments and even with those adjustments, East Hardy played extremely hard. Four quarters, hats off to them. I do respect East Hardy. I told Coach Hahn we weren’t going to run away from them. I know they’ve struggled a little lately, but they have athletes to match up and be able to play fast. It was a great effort on their part. We play strong to our defense. We want to hold opponents under 50 and score 50 points ourselves. Even on a night where we shot extremely poorly, give East Hardy credit there, we still found a way to win. We did the effort things that don’t take skill, defending, boxing out and three-quartering the post. On a night we didn’t have a great night overall, resiliency is a great word. We found a way to win,” Pendleton County Boys Basketball coach Ryan Lambert commented.
A free throw made by East Hardy’s Bryce Tharp with 1:38 left in the game pulled the Cougars within one possession trailing Pendleton County 43-40.
The Wildcats lost control of the ball and East Hardy’s Andrew Tharp made a dive ripping the ball away and Pendleton County was awarded a timeout.
Bryce Tharp intercepted the inbound pass for the Cougars, but didn’t connect on shot and teammate Noah Lang snatched the rebound for a putback with 1:25 to go for a 43-42 score.
Pendleton County’s Laird Sweet collected an offensive rebound and was fouled leading to two foul shots made with 1:16 left.
Andrew Tharp drew a foul with one minute remaining adding one charity stripe basket for East Hardy making it 45-43.
Bailey Thompson was fouled on the ensuing rebound off the missed free throw, then made both of his attempts for the Wildcats pushing the lead back up to 47-43 with 59 seconds on the clock.
East Hardy missed a long range jumper and Pendleton County’s Isaiah Gardiner hauled in the carom, then Thompson made a save on an errant pass along the sidelines throwing the ball off a Cougars player to maintain possession.
Sweet was quickly fouled and connected on both free throws for a 49-43 advantage with 35 seconds to go.
Andrew Tharp made an offensive rebound for the Cougars spinning away from Pendleton County’s Taylor Wimer, but in the process Tharp was whistled for a foul with 24 seconds remaining.
Wimer made the second of the two free throw attempts for the final score of 50-43.
East Hardy missed a 3-pointer attempt and Thompson snatched the board before being fouled, then missed both free throws with Adam Baker collecting the rebound for the Cougars with a last second shot missing the mark.
Pendleton County remained undefeated with a record of 9-0, while the Cougars fell to 3-8.
“We battled. We are just a little undersized when we play these guys. His bigs are very talented. We didn’t have an answer for them inside the paint. When they got the ball deep, they were going to score it. Our plan was to speed them up and use the pressure to our advantage. We did a pretty good job at it for a while. They made an adjustment packing it in and dared us to shoot from the outside. We couldn’t match the dare. We’ve been offensively challenged all year and it is something we are working on and have been getting better at it. I thought we took good shots, not a lot of forced shots. We just didn’t match up well with Pendleton County. They went zone and dared us to shoot and we couldn’t answer,” East Hardy Boys Basketball coach Chris Hahn stated.
The Wildcats took the opening possession of the game and passed the ball around before a foul was committed by East Hardy, then Gardiner hit a 3-pointer for the initial lead at the 7:05 mark.
Both teams missed field goals and there were two jump balls prior to East Hardy’s Seth Smith making a steal to setup a jumper by Christian Dove at the 5:33 mark.
Pendleton County quickly answered with a basket in the paint by Thompson.
The Cougars were called for a lane violation on the ensuing series, then applied pressure and Pendleton County missed a field goal with a rebound hauled in by Sweet moments before a charge was assessed on Josh Alt.
East Hardy’s Bryce Tharp was sent to the free throw line and made both baskets to cut the deficit to 5-4 at the 4:15 mark.
Thompson knocked down a jumper on the next possession for the Wildcats at 4:05 for a three point edge.
There were a handful of missed opportunities on both sides of the court over the next minute and change before East Hardy’s Justin Teets blocked a shot and scored on a jumper with 2:30 left in the first period creating a 7-6 score.
Bryce Tharp swiped the ball, but the Cougars came up empty with Pendleton County’s Colt Smith grabbing the rebound and was fouled.
Teets stole the ball, but it was taken right back by Wimer, but the Wildcats hit the rim and Adam Baker snatched the board for East Hardy.
The Cougars launched an errant attempt and the tipped ball found its way into the hands of Pendleton County’s Laird Sweet just before a collision resulting in a turnover.
Both teams missed shots with rebounds by Wimer and Teets, then Andrew Tharp tied the game on the foul line with 19 seconds on the clock, 7-all.
East Hardy’s Christian Dove stole the ball, but the ensuing shot hit the rim and the Wildcats Javin Kuykendall hauled in the carom before a rushed pass sailed out of bounds and buzzer throw by the Cougars went into the rafters.
The Cougars started the second period with a jumper by Baker off an assist from Dove at the 7:41 mark for a 9-7 lead.
Pendleton County missed two field goals, then Teets forced a turnover knocking the ball away with Baker corralling the ricochet.
After a Wildcats foul, Smith stole the ball and fed Thompson for a game-tying jumper plus a foul attempt that went awry at 6:20.
Wimer snatched the rebound off the missed free throw and hit the rim, then Thompson collected the board and scored for an 11-9 leas at 6:12.
East Hardy’s Seth Smith and Andrew Tharp made a trap forcing a turnover, but the next shot attempt missed as Thompson got a partial block.
The Cougars recovered the ball and Baker made a jumper to tie the game at the 5:00 mark, 11-all.
Dove swiped the ball and netted a layup to give East Hardy a 13-11 lead at 4:40.
Pendleton County fumbled the ball out of bounds under pressure, then Baker hauled in an offensive rebound and Alt blocked the next shot.
Thompson tied the game for the Wildcats with 3:38 left in the second period.
Andrew Tharp drilled a 3-pointer for the Cougars to regain the edge, 16-13 at 3:23.
After a couple of turnovers on both sides, Baker grabbed a rebound and Andrew Tharp was whistled for a charge.
Pendleton County’s Wimer and Alt sandwiched baskets around a jumper by East Hardy’s Bryce Tharp in a sun of 37 seconds for an 18-17 score.
Alt snatched a rebound off a missed free throw, then Sweet hit a jumper to put the Wildcats ahead 19-18 with 1:12 left in the first half.
Dove sank two charity stripe buckets eight seconds later to regain the Cougars lead.
Wimer hit a jumper on the following Pendleton County possession to swap the lead again.
The Cougars fumbled the ball out of play, then Teets stole the ball back and setup Bryce Tharp for a jumper creating a 22-21 edge with 31 seconds remaining in second period.
The ricochet off the rim hit the wire for the