By ANDRES MARTINEZ
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
BEARDSTOWN, Ill. -- Paxton Harmon's career night gave the West Hancock boys basketball team a chance to move a step closer to the state tournament.
Unfortunately for Harmon and the Titans, Riverton put up a roadblock.
The Hawks outscored the Titans 18-10 in overtime and escaped the Class 2A Beardstown Sectional championship game with a 78-70 victory. That was in spite of Harmon, the West Hancock 6-foot-5 senior swingman, scoring a career-high 43 points and hitting the 3-pointer that forced overtime.
"I mean it's nice to have one of your better games in your last game," said Harmon, who scored 20 of his 43 in the first half. "If I could have scored no points and our team would have won, I would be more happy."
Harmon showed his intentions early, scoring 13 points in the first quarter to give the Titans (27-6) a 21-17 lead.
However, he picked up his second foul with 3.8 seconds to play in the first quarter and sat out while Riverton (26-3) opened the second quarter on a 10-0 run to take a 27-21 lead with 5:30 to play in the half.
Harmon came off the bench after the run and scored seven points as the Titans battled back to cut the Hawks lead to 34-33 at the half.
"We just had to get back to how we play defense," Harmon said. "Throughout the whole game, we really didn't play our defense the way we were capable of, and that's how we got there."
No one put fault on the calls or Harmon's foul trouble.
"I'm not going to make excuses with the way the game is called," West Hancock coach Reno Pinkston said. "The game is played by the players, and you just hope your game goes with your flow."
West Hancock ended the third quarter on a 12-2 run, and Harmon added a runner as time expired to give the Titans a 53-44 lead heading into the fourth.
Both teams struggled offensviely in the fourth as neither one scored until Riverton senior Kevin Bertolino made a layup with 4:42 left to play. It sparked the Hawks to a 9-0 run.
"You got to make plays, shots, and unfortunately for us, we didn't," Pinkston said.
"They came down and attacked the rim. They're a really nice ballclub."
Titans junior Devin Rings made a 3-pointer to end the run and extend the lead to 57-53 with 1:57 to play.
The Titans did not help their cause with mistakes. A missed shot and three turnovers allowed the Hawks to take a 59-57 lead with 14.9 seconds left.
"You just have to grind it out," Riverton head coach Kyle Weber said.
Trailing 59-57, West Hancock forward Parker Gibbs turned the ball over with 9.4 left. Riverton split a pair of free throws for a 60-57 lead, and West Hancock got the ball to midcourt before calling timeout with 3.8 seconds left.
On the inbounds play, the Titans' Coy Dorothy found Harmon in the corner, who put up a contested 3-point attempt that splashed down.
"I was setting a down screen for Austin, but Austin didn't get open," Harmon said. "Coy made a really nice pass, and they tried to foul me and I still made the shot."
The Hawks opened overtime on a 14-3 run, going 9 of 12 from the free-throw line.
"When it's all over with," Harmon said, "I'll look back, and that'll be a good memory -- to know I had one of my best games when I went out."