Kason Harrell is a terror in open court, and Friday night the Hempfield junior guard found some space to run.
Harrell had five steals and scored 12 of his game-high 22 points in transition to lead Class AAAA No. 4 Hempfield (9-1, 5-0) to a 45-40 victory against visiting Kiski Area (8-4, 5-1) in a matchup of the top two teams in Section 1.
"He's unbelievable in transition," Kiski Area coach Joe Tutchstone said. "It's tough. I haven't seen a kid like him in a while. In the open court, you just have to hope to contain him. He's a heck of a player."
Hempfield 45, Kiski Area 40
Hempfield takes on Kiski Area in Friday night basketball action. (Video by Matt Freed; 1/10/2014)
Harrell came into the game averaging close to 23 points per game, and Hempfield had to lean on him even more because the team's second-leading scorer, Logan Hunter, missed the game with a foot injury.
To make matters worse, starting guard Michael Nauman picked up his second foul three minutes into the game and sat out the majority of the first half.
"I thought it was imperative that I score [because of the situation], but I thought I had to do more than just score -- I had to play defense and make good decisions with the basketball," Harrell said. "Kiski's an outstanding team, and they played a great game on both ends of the floor.
Harrell had seven of Hempfield's nine first-quarter points, and he and center Tony Pilato scored all 17 of the Spartans' points in the first half.
Nevertheless, they trailed by one at the break.
Mike Nauman finally gave Hempfield a third scorer when he hit a 3-pointer with 4:49 left in the third quarter to tie the score, 22-22, and that started a 14-3 run over the next five minutes for the Spartans. Five players scored in that burst.
Kiski Area, meanwhile, couldn't get a shot to fall and turned the ball over four times in that run.
"We got the looks we wanted, we just didn't capitalize on those shots," Tutchstone said. "It was like there was a lid on the basket. Then, we turned the ball over a few times, too."
But Kiski Area clawed back into the game behind its two best scorers, Michael Simmons and Joe Brungo.
They combined for Kiski Area's next eight points and pulled the Cavaliers within two, 35-33, with less than four minutes to play.
Harrell and Nolan Beresford hit 3 of 4 free throws, while Simmons and Brungo each missed from 3-point range, as the Spartans built their lead to five.
Then, Harrell had the play of the game, picking Brungo's pocket in the backcourt and going in for an uncontested dunk with less than two minutes remaining to wrap up Hempfield's eighth consecutive victory.