Strong start defensively sends Titans into regional finals

West Hancock's Paxton Harmon, right, heads upcourt after stealing the ball from Beardstown's Dylan Patterson during Tuesday's Class 2A West Hancock Regional game in Warsaw, Ill. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)
Posted: Feb. 20, 2013 12:14 am Updated: Mar. 13, 2013 1:15 am

Herald-Whig Sports Writer

WARSAW, Ill. -- West Hancock boys basketball coach Reno Pinkston didn't think too highly of his team's play during the final four minutes of the first half Tuesday night.

"(Assistant coach David) Griffiths said it was like a bad men's league game," Pinkston said. "That sums it up pretty well. There wasn't much to be proud of during that stretch."

The other 28 minutes were much, much better.

The Titans turned in a strong performance during a 70-35 semifinal victory over Beardstown in the Class 2A West Hancock Regional at Warsaw High School.

West Hancock's defense forced the fourth-seeded Tigers to make only one of their first 19 shots from the field. By the time Beardstown (17-14) made its second field goal of the game -- a driving shot by Jon Kramer with 3 minutes, 17 seconds left in the first half -- the top-seeded Titans led 25-10.

"We were pretty solid early in the game, especially defensively," West Hancock senior Coy Dorothy said. "We wanted to come out early and take control and that's pretty much what happened."

But Kramer's basket started a 14-4 Beardstown stretch to end the half. West Hancock's Parker Gibbs, a 6-foot-5 senior, sat out most of that stretch after picking up his second foul.

"Parker's our best rebounder, alters a lot of different shots and has really picked it up scoring-wise inside," Titans senior Paxton Harmon said. "We need to learn how to play when Parker's not on the floor. Just because he's not in there doesn't mean we can stop playing as a team."

Harmon was a key to West Hancock's success in the third quarter.

After leading 29-19 at halftime, the Titans (25-5) dominated the third quarter as Harmon scored 11 of his game-high 27 points. Kramer's free throw with a little more than six minutes left in the quarter cut the lead to 35-24.

However, a 15-2 West Hancock run, during which Harmon scored seven points, extended the advantage to 50-26.

"We played well in the second half," Pinkston said. "We contested shots. We went after loose balls. We were doing everything you want your team to do. We got back to doing exactly what we wanted to do the entire game."

West Hancock also showed patience on the offensive end.

"We've been doing a better job of that lately, letting the game flow," Pinkston said. "We're moving the ball better and people are moving to their spots on the floor with a purpose."

The Titans will have to continue that to win Friday's regional championship. They will play the winner of Wednesday's semifinal between second-seeded Pittsfield and third-seeded Illini West.

"It's always a little different in the postseason," Harmon said. "You have to do things that are a little bit out of the norm, and you have to change your routine a little bit. It takes a little adapting, but that's important if you want to continue winning and moving on."


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