By Stephen Smoot
Last week Pendleton County won their sectional opener, but the laurels of victory also went to virtue, good character, sportsmanship, and pride. The team and coach that Harman High School brought to Franklin last week nobly withstood the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, then took arms against a sea of troubles more commonly known as the seventh ranked Pendleton County Wildcats.
Through a series of misfortunes, the Panthers could only bring five players to compete against a Wildcat squad hitting its stride in every way as the post season opened. Some squads may have forfeited a postseason road game whose result might seem a foregone conclusion, but not Harman.
Pendleton County controlled the tip off and went straight to work. Jacob Beachler opened scoring with a layup 10 seconds into the game. Then the Wildcats jumped into a tight man to man press. Josiah Kimble stole the ball at the 7:30 mark, then hit a three seven seconds later to put his team up 5-0.
Harman gave strong effort the entire night. They tried to play tight defense and did well in the half court, but turnovers led to a number of Wildcat fast break scores. Chase Owens, Kimble, and Beachler in particular were relentless in jumping passing lanes. Clayton Kisamore joined them in pulling down rebounds and hitting high percentage shots. With a minute to go, Kisamore took an Owens pass and hit the open layup to put his team up 24-7.
Despite the relentless pressure and effort from both squads, the teams showed great sportsmanship. When a Harman player accidentally barreled into Dusty Smith, who was hustling after the ball, and knocked him down, the player quickly got to his feet to offer Smith a hand up.
A Panther three-pointer answered by an Owens’ steal and drive to the hoop put the first quarter score at 26-10.
Harman tried to get back into the game in the second quarter by patiently running their offensive plays. They enjoyed the most effectiveness when patiently passing to find open players on the outside to fire up deep shots.
Most of the time, however, Wildcat defenders forced Panther shooters to get creative in finding openings. Some performed stepback or dribble moves while others shot from 20 feet or more away. Harman did connect on nine three-pointers on the night.
Kisamore exploded in the second quarter. With five minutes left, he drove to the basket and laid in a finger roll to put the score at 32-15, then evaded three defenders to hit another shot 30 seconds later. This set the score at 34-15. Dustin Vandevander then swiped a pass and started a possession that ended in a Beachler layup seven seconds later.
Kimble also enjoyed success in the quarter. At the 2:39 mark, he grabbed a steal and drove the ball down the court for a layup, then did the same only 17 seconds later to give the Wildcats a 40-18 advantage.
Connor Armentrout ended the half with big plays of his own. He stole the ball at the 1:43 mark. A minute later, Beachler connected with a pass and gave Armentrout an open layup. The half ended when a Brady Bowers pass found the hands of Armentrout, who laid the ball in for a 47-20 advantage.
At the half, Harman head coach Christian Moats praised his players, saying that under the conditions of having only five ready to compete, “scoring 20 points in the half against the seventh ranked team in the state, you can’t ask for more.”
The third quarter opened with a Kimble steal and a dramatic Kisamore dunk, both in the first minute of play. A three from Smith pushed the score to 54-20. Kimble hit a three-pointer with an assist from Owens, but the Panthers buried their own three with a Wildcat hand in the face to cut the lead to 57-23.
Harman players continued to execute moves to get open and hit long shots, often drawing “oohs” from the crowd. Never did they falter in effort at either end of the floor.
Halfway through the third, Pendleton County coach Jeremy Bodkin sent in mass substitutions. Neither the starters nor bench for the home team let up in effort. To do so would have been disrespectful to their undermanned opposition.
At the opening of the fourth, the Wildcats struck gold twice in a high low set. Both times, Evan Teter found Cashton Kisamore for an open layup. Later in the quarter, Bowers hit a three-point shot. He had even more impact with his defense, sticking mere inches from his man most of the time.
Armentrout continued to have one of his best games of the year. In the third, he hit a layup and drew a foul. In the waning minutes of action, he also hit a three-point shot, then another layup.
With 13 seconds left, a Panther fouled out, leaving the team with four players. Undeterred, they drove up the floor and buried their final three-pointer with two seconds left, leaving the score at 84-38. Moats said of his young men, “the five that came gave 100 percent.”
In their final game of the year, Harman did not win on the scoreboard. By showing virtue and giving their all, however, the players who came to Franklin taught a valuable lesson. Win or lose, getting into that arena and giving one’s best, regardless of the outcome, should always be a source of pride and honor.
Theodore Roosevelt, a famed sportsman who served in other important roles, once said, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena . . . who strives valiantly . . . and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
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