It was a career night for Will Gibbs in helping Harrisburg to a 66-54 win over Anna-Jonesboro Saturday night.
Gibbs scored a career-high 25 points, including 11 -- all of which came from the free throw line -- in the fourth quarter as Harrisburg held off a late Anna-Jonesboro rally.
Harrisburg (3-8, 0-4 SIRR Ohio) split its pair of weekend games as the Bulldogs lost to Murphysboro 73-68 Friday night and HHS head coach Randy Smithpeters said the difference between Friday and Saturday was his ball club taking the necessary steps on particular adjustments he has made in recent weeks.
"I thought we made some big improvements (Friday) as far as game preparation and defensively," Smithpeters said. "I thought we made some big steps (Saturday). I think we kept that intensity and stepped up with our decision making. (Saturday) we didn't shoot many bad shots. I don't know if we shot any bad shots. We had a lead and we protected it. We got the ball into the hands of free throw shooters when it was time to get them in there and we defended well and we didn't give A-J's strengths a lot of chances.
"When they did get a chance, it was at least a contested shot. I thought we rebounded and he thing we talked about a lot was being tough because I think some of our losses in the past have been because we just weren't tough enough. I think (Saturday) we were physically tough and mentally tough and that made all the difference in the world. That's a great win for us. Anna is a good team and we define "fun" as beating a team whose as good as or better than you. Anna definitely fits that category. We come up with a good win and we want to stay there and keep performing at that level."
The Bulldogs also avenged a loss to A-J at the Eldorado Holiday Tournament and on Saturday, the Wildcats got as close as five points with 3:09 left to play as Blake Pena forced Harrisburg to call a timeout after his run out in transient made it a 54-49 ballgame.
Pena had a team-high 17 points for the Wildcats, who on Friday night, knocked off Du Quoin 38-23 in SIRR Mississippi action.
The Wildcats (5-11, 1-3) also got a double-digit performance from Zach Overstreet.
A-J head coach Mike Chamness gave credit where credit is due, complementing Harrisburg on going 32-for-23 from the free throw line and 16-for-18 in the final eight minutes.
"I thought that Harrisburg made some shots," Chamness said. "They're a really scary team because they play so hard. If they can make shots, it's almost contagious with them. I thought they did a really good job of getting the line and then when we made a little run in the fourth quarter, we cut it to five, Gibbs stepped to the line and did what a senior should do and made a bunch of free throws. We just never could make that shot when we needed to. Give them a lot of credit, they beat us."
Michael Godsey also finished in double figures for Harrisburg, tossing in 12 points, while Zayne Hayes and Andrew Bittle each netted nine points. Brandon Watson chipped in with six points, while Darion Barners finished with five.
Anna-Jonesboro got six points a piece from both Ta'Kevon Williford and Noah McFarland, while Juan Valencia finished with five points. Maddox Thorpe and Nate Belcher both tossed in two points for the Wildcats.
Murphysboro 73, Harrisburg 68
Harrisburg played neck-to-neck with Murphysboro in the first half, but were outscored 48-45 and lost 73-68 to Murphysboro Friday night at Davenport Gymnasium.
Godsey led the Bulldogs with 19 points, while Bittle finished with 15 and Lawler tacked on 13 as all three scored in double digits.
Hayes finished with seven points, while Ben Brombaugh scored six points for Harrisburg. Gibbs had four points, while Barners and Watson both tacked on two points.
Harrisburg is at Herrin on Friday in the Bulldogs' lone game this week before beginning play at the Carmi-White County Invitational.
Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois Local Media News Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.