With eight players contributing to the scoring, it was a team effort for Harrisonville to take down Butler in the Wildcats’ 51-45 victory in the first round of the Harrisonville Holiday Basketball Tournament Dec. 17.
“The key was the energy in our bench,” junior forward Matt Prindle said. “They came out and gave us great momentum and were enthusiastic no matter how much time they had to play. I am very thankful that we have a deep bench.”
It was a back-and-forth battle in the first quarter, with Butler taking a slim 12-10 advantage. In the start of the second quarter, junior point guard Luke Cooper, in his first start of the season after recovering from an injury, hit two free throws to knot the score. Prindle followed with a three-pointer and senior point guard Jacob Gibbs sunk a shot to give the Wildcats a 17-12 advantage. The Bears responded with a basket, but so did Harrisonville by Prindle. The quarter continued with another fight, but Harrisonville still led 26-20 at halftime.
“Energy is the main thing of our team,” Cooper said. “If we play with high energy, we are going to beat a lot of people.”
In the third quarter, the scoring went between the two teams again until the end, when Harrisonville went on a 5-0 run with a basket by junior forward Brock Kliewer and a three-pointer by Gibbs to push the Wildcats up 38-29. In the fourth quarter, after a Butler free throw, Prindle made a shot. But the Bears were fouled at the three-point line, hitting two of three free throws to make the score 40-32.
Harrisonville responded with a basket by sophomore forward Brice Renner, but Butler retaliated with two baskets in a row to close the gap to 42-36. After a free throw by Renner, Butler sunk a three-pointer to edge even closer at 43-39. Then Butler’s leading scorer, senior Trey Mareth, who had put in 11 points so far, fouled Gibbs, fouling out of the game with just over a minute left. Gibbs put in one of the free throws, but Butler followed with a basket to make the score 43-41.
The Wildcats responded with a basket by Prindle, but Butler fought right back with another shot. The Bears fouled Cooper, who hit both shots, then fouled Gibbs, who also sunk both free throws with less than 30 seconds left in the contest. Prindle was fouled with just a few seconds left, putting in both free throws to seal the victory.
“I think we played pretty well,” Prindle said. “We competed. We had a couple of mental errors here and there. We have some work to do. We have to just look forward to tomorrow and pick our heads up.”
Prindle led the Wildcats in scoring with 13 points, followed by Cooper with 12 points. Gibbs had nine points, Renner had six points and Kliewer had four points. Jon Koch added three points and Kenny Baker and Mason Saffels had two points apiece.
“I was pretty out of shape,” Cooper said of his first game back on the court this season. “It was hard. Me and Mason (Saffels) have been out, so we really haven’t been able to put everyone together in practice. “We have only had one practice with everyone there. It was a rough win, but we look forward to tomorrow.”
Harrisonville, 4-1, defeated Platte County 60-41 Dec. 18 and faced Center for the championship Dec. 19.