COLUMBIA — “Don’t act like you’re not impressed.”
That was the slogan on the back of a shirt a Harrisburg High School fan was wearing during the boys’ basketball team’s Class 2 semifinal against Clever at Mizzou Arena on Friday night.
The team and the game lived up to that billing as the Bulldogs won 73-67 in a high-paced game that featured 26 lead changes.
Harrisburg coach Steve Combs said the teams were practically mirror images of each other. Both teams featured smaller players and relied on an up-tempo game.
“It was just two teams matched evenly,” Combs said in a press conference after the game.
One notable difference between the two teams is that the Blue Jays only have eight players on their roster and usually only play six while Harrisburg had a deeper bench and used an eight-man rotation.
“I thought we could wear them out,” Harrisburg senior guard Josh Taylor said. However, that wasn’t the case.
“It didn’t look like they would ever get tired,” Taylor said.
Combs wasn’t worried about his players getting tired saying his team plays that tempo everyday in practice.
Taylor led the Bulldogs with 21 points and 12 rebounds. However, that wasn’t the first thing he looked at when he saw the box score.
“Dang, I didn’t do good,” Taylor said when he saw the man he was guarding, Clever senior guard Josh Pope, scored 19 points. Taylor’s 12 rebounds were a big part of the 36-21 rebounding edge for the Bulldogs.
“Coach stresses ‘Rebound, rebound, rebound,’” Taylor said.
Harrisburg won the state title in 2006 and finished third last year. This is only the second trip to the finals in school history.
“I never thought we had a chance to be better than Fisher’s team,” senior guard Taylor Perrigo said. Kyle Fisher was a guard on the 2006 championship team and is currently a sophomore on William Jewell’s basketball team.
Clever led by one point after each of the first three quarters, but a late 8-0 run by the Bulldogs put them in position where all they had to do was make free throws to clinch the game. The Bulldogs were up to the task as they made seven out of nine in the last 1:05 of the game.
Clever sophomore guard Jeremy Dresslaer had 11 points in the first quarter, but was held relatively in check after that. He finished with a team-high 21 points and fouled out with 1:05 left.
“We thought Taylor (Perrigo) was as athletic as him,” Combs said of the matchup against Dresslaer.
Blue Jays senior forward Bryce Huddleston also had 21 points. Harrisburg junior forward Cory Via had 18 and Perrigo added 15.
Harrisburg will play South Iron of Annapolis for the state championship at 6:10 p.m. Saturday at Mizzou Arena. Clever will play for third against West Platte of Weston at 9:30 p.m.