By DOUG ZALESKI
Few plays in basketball generate as much emotion as a stunning basket from the opposite end of the court at the end of a quarter. So it was in the Muncie Fieldhouse on Friday when Central’s Dylan Stafford swished a 45-foot shot from a few feet shy of the halfcourt line as the first quarter expired in the Bearcats’ game against Harrison. The shot gave Central a six-point lead, and then Stafford went off again by hitting three 3-point shots - one in the right corner and two from the left wing - in the first four minutes of the second quarter. The burst propelled Central to a 27-20 halftime lead and allowed it to dictate the pace through the first three quarters of the North Central Conference game. But the Bearcats faltered in the fourth quarter and dropped a 57-55 decision to Harrison.
“It gave us some big momentum,” Central coach Chandler Thompson said of Stafford’s quick start. “We had a lot of energy because we started to play better defensively, we got a lot more rebounds. “But after the third quarter when they hit us in the mouth, we didn’t have the same intensity.”
That was the problem for the Bearcats (8-12). Stafford’s fifth 3-pointer gave Central a 45-41 lead with 7:05 left in the game. But Harrison (15-5) ripped off a 12-0 scoring run right after that to lead 53-45 with 3:55 remaining. “We didn’t do what we’re supposed to do,” Thompson said of the fourth-quarter fizzle. “It was all what we didn’t do. We got rattled, allowed them to get shots, we sent two defenders to one offensive player and left a guy open underneath. We had a lack of communication. “At that stage we got rattled.”
To the Bearcats’ credit they mounted a comeback. Victor Young scored eight points (six on free throws) in the final 2:32 to pull Central into a 55-55 tie with 44 seconds to play.
But Young was called for a foul while knocking the ball away from Harrison’s Jordan Walters on