In mid-January, Harrisburg had a chance for a last second layup that would've beaten Mount Carmel at the Carmi Invitational Tournament. That night, the Bulldogs came up empty. Friday night, Harrisburg battled back in the final minutes of the Lawrenceville 2A regional final and had a pair of looks in the waning seconds to try and tie the contest but came up short in a 51-49 loss to the Golden Aces.
"Really the fact that we had a shot says a lot about this team," said Harrisburg coach Randy Smithpeters. "When we're down six with whatever time to go and then we fight back to have a shot at the buzzer to tie it up, I think it says something about how hard this team fights, how tough they are."
Dalton Lambert had brought Harrisburg (23-8) to within two with a charity toss with 3.7 seconds remaining. Mount Carmel failed to execute the subsequent inbounds pass which gave the ball back to the Bulldogs with a chance for a final shot.
Senior Isaiah Saulsberry's look inside wouldn't fall and neither would the put-back attempt by Lambert as time expired.
"I thought our guys played well, I thought we played hard," said Smithpeters. "I thought we did the things that we wanted to do. I thought we were prepared and focused."
Saulsberry finished with 14 points Friday night giving him an even 1,900 for his career.
Teammate Blake Drue led the Bulldogs in scoring with 17 points. Lambert added seven. Jordan Bartok and Will Sanders each scored four points, while Carson Burtis dropped in three.
HHS fell behind 15-10 after the first quarter, but Drue's off-balance layup to close the first half gave the Bulldogs a 26-25 lead at halftime.
Harrisburg continued that hot streak out of halftime by extending its lead to 33-25 with 4:48 left in the third quarter.
Mount Carmel was able to pull to within 37-36 after three quarters and reclaimed the lead early in the fourth on a bucket from Brayden Stipp.
The Golden Aces had three players score in double figures including Stipp who finished with 13 points. Austin Rager added 12 and Jackson Marcotte, who has committed to play football at the University of Wyoming, added 11 points. Marcotte had missed most of his senior year due to a knee injury.
The loss marked the end of the basketball career for seven Harrisburg seniors; Saulberry, Drue, Lambert, Bartok, Burtis, Hunter Smith and Brayden Storms.
"The basketball season is a journey and we went a lot of places and we had a lot of great times," said Smithpeters. "This a great group. It's a great group to be with. I think Coach (Richard) Dwyer and I have probably spent more time with this group than we have with any group in the past just because they are just an enjoyable bunch of young men on the floor and off the floor."
Mount Carmel (18-11) is into the sectional for the third consecutive season and will meet last year's Class 1A champion, Effingham St. Anthony, Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the semifinals of the Robinson 2A Sectional.
Lawrenceville 2A regional
Mount Carmel 51 Harrisburg 49
Harrisburg 10 16 11 12 - 49
Mt. Carmel 15 10 11 15 - 51
Harrisburg (49): Drue 7 1-2 17, Saulsberry 14, Burtis 1 0-0 3, Lambert 3 1-2 7, Bartok 1 2-2 4, Sanders 2 0-0 4. Totals: 19 8-11 49.
Mt. Carmel (51): Br. Stipp 5 2-2 13, Doan 1 0-0 3, Golden 2 2-3 6, Appleby 3 0-0 6, Marcotte 4 3-7 11, Rager 5 2-2 12. Totals: 20 9-14 51.
3-pointers: HBG 3 (Drue 2, Burtis), MTC 2 (Br. Stipp, Doan). Team Fouls: HBG 20, MTC 12. Records: HBG finishes 23-8, MTC is 18-11.