By FRANK CASH
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
WARSAW, Ill. -- The West Hancock boys basketball team showed Tuesday night it doesn't always need to have Paxton Harmon on the floor to be successful.
The Titans led Liberty by two points when Harmon, the team's leading scorer, went to the bench with his third foul midway through the third quarter. Less than a minute later, West Hancock started a 12-2 run which led to a 58-42 victory over Liberty on Senior Night.
"Even though we took Paxton out, we extended our lead," Titans coach Reno Pinkston said. "Early in the season, we wouldn't have done that. We would've wilted and let the lead get away from us. That's how much this team has progressed."
Although Harmon returned to the game before that run was over, West Hancock leaned on seniors Coy Dorothy and Parker Gibbs during his absence.
Gibbs scored two putbacks -- one on the Titans' final possession of the third quarter and the other on their first play of the fourth -- and Dorothy drained a 3-pointer for a 46-34 lead with 6:38 left in the game.
Harmon led West Hancock (21-5) with 18 points, while Gibbs and Dorothy combined for 26.
"We started playing like we should've been all along, even though Paxton wasn't out there," said Gibbs, who finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds. "We had some lapses earlier in the game we had to play through. We kept fighting until we got the momentum."
Harmon scored only five points after halftime.
"Part of our gameplan was to always have someone on Harmon," Eagles coach Andy Douglas said. "But we knew we had to have an idea of where their other players were. That wasn't enough. Coach Pinkston knows what he's doing. He's too good of a coach and has too good of a program."
Harmon had already scored 12 points by the time West Hancock took a 24-12 lead with 6:30 left in the first half. Liberty (15-8) tried to take the Titans out of their comfort zone by increasing the tempo the remainder of the first half.
The Eagles' plan worked as they cut the lead to 27-26 when Brett Genenbacher scored off a pass from Michael Mast just before halftime.
They eventually tied the score at 32 when Connor Wolf made an 8-foot jumper with 4:52 left in the third quarter.
Liberty's energetic push proved to be too much.
"We lost our legs a little bit (in the third quarter) and it caused us to struggle some," Douglas said. "Guys weren't working entire possessions. They'd play only part of them."
Michael Blewett led Liberty with 18 points and Mast added 10.
Although West Hancock won't play at home again during the regular season, it could have two more home games when it hosts a Class 2A regional in two weeks.
"We have three more (regular-season) games and we just want to keep working hard and improving so we're playing our best basketball in the regional," Gibbs said. "It'll be fun to come back and play with something big on the line."