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In real life 3:43 doesn’t seem like that long a period of time.
On a basketball court, however, 3:43 can seem like an eternity. That was the case Monday night as a span of 3:43 was all that was needed to erase any hopes the Harriman Blue Devils had of reaching the TSSAA Class A State Tournament for a second consecutive year.
The Blue Devils’ season ended with an 86-64 loss at the hands of Region 1-A champion Hampton in the TSSAA Class A Sectional played at Hampton.
The deadly stretch started at the 4:26 mark of the third period. At that point, Harriman trailed just 42-40, but that’s when Hampton’s Nathaniel Hughes jump-started an 18-1 run with an old-fashioned three-point play to make the score 45-40. The run ended with 43 seconds left in the third period when Hampton’s James Hassett buried a three-pointer.
“I don’t know what happened in the third quarter,” Harriman head coach Jeff King said. “We had cut it to two, but then we couldn’t get a call, a roll, or a bounce to go our way. Nothing went our way the third quarter.”
While the 3:43 stretch of the third quarter proved decisive, it was a full four quarters of Hampton’s Hughes that also killed the Blue Devils as the TSSAA Class A Mr. Basketball finalist torched the Devils defense for a career-high 40 points to go along with eight rebounds, five steals and three assists.
“I really don’t think we did that bad of a job guarding him, but it was obviously his night,” King said. “I’d have to look at the tape, but I don’t know how many times we fouled him on jump shots and he still ripped the nets.
“All those fouls and a bunch of turnovers hurt us. We had three guys foul out tonight and we had a lot of turnovers. You can’t win a big game on the road with this big of a crowd when you get in foul trouble and turn the ball over.”
Hughes let it be known early that he and his Bulldog teammates were not about to suffer another disappointment in the sectional round of the playoffs. The Bulldogs dropped a 49-43 decision against Oliver Springs at home last year.
Hughes scored 14 points in that game, but he scored eight points in the first 2:49 seconds of Monday’s game in leading Hampton to an early 10-2 lead.
Harriman, however, settled down quickly and behind seven points from Dimitrique Inman, the Devils trailed just 14-11 after eight minutes of play.
Hughes ended the opening quarter with 10 points.
Hughes was at it again early in the second quarter as he scored six points in the first 47 seconds of the frame to give the Bulldogs a 20-11 lead with 7:13 left in the first half.
Luckily for Harriman fans, Hughes cooled off and scored just two points the rest of the half.
Harriman also started finding their range in the second period. The final seven minutes of the half would see the Devils outscore the Bulldogs 20-15 to pull within 35-31 at intermission.
Xavier Howard (7 points) and Inman (6 points) combined for 13 of Harriman’s 20 points in the second period.
Hughes opened the second half with a basket that made the score 37-31, but Harriman answered with five points from Austin White and four points from Howard as the Devils pulled to within 42-40 with 4:36 left to go in the third quarter.
But then the wheels fell off the Harriman wagon. Hughes erupted for 10 straight points as the two-point lead ballooned to 12. Those 10 points would also see Harriman’s Shaquille Love foul out after a technical foul and Darius Gallaher pick up his fourth foul.
Hughes didn’t score again the rest of the period, but his teammates picked up the slack and before Harriman scored again from the field, the Bulldogs held a 60-41 lead.
Harriman did try to rally. Howard and Inman scored to end the third period, making the score 60-45. Howard then converted an old-fashioned three-point play early in the fourth period as the Devils pulled with 12 points at 62-50 with 7:15 left to play.
Harriman, however, would get no closer. Hughes would score 10 more points in the final period and Hampton’s lead grew to as many as 23 points before settling on the 86-64 victory.
Besides Hughes, Dylan Ward (13 points, 9 rebounds) and Hassett (12 points) also scored in double figures for Hampton.
Inman (19 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists) and Howard (19 points, 6 rebounds) scored in double figures for Harriman.
Despite the loss, Coach King is still proud of his team that finished with a 23-8 record and won the District 3-A regular season and tournament championship.
“What they accomplished this year is nothing short of amazing,” King said. “We didn’t have our full squad until tournament time and it’s hard to develop a chemistry when you have people out all the time.
“A lot of teams this time of year rely mostly on seniors, but we’ve had to play everybody this year to get where we’re at. We’ve started freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors this season.”
Monday’s game was the last for Harriman seniors Tyler Dishman, Dimitrique Inman, Darius Gallaher and Shaquille Love and Coach King said those players will not be forgotten.
“What can you say about those guys. Our program wouldn’t be where it’s at without their hard work,” King said. “We’ve wanted our program to be a consistent winner and these seniors have helped us accomplish that. There’s not a better bunch anywhere.”
Harriman (64) Inman 19, Howard 19, Gallaher 9, Davis 3, White 7, Dishman 2, Lunsford 5.