Isaiah Saulsberry had 11 points in the fourth quarter for Harrisburg, fueling the Bulldogs to a 53-46 victory over Massac County Friday at the Eldorado Holiday Tournament.
The senior guard had a game-high 27 points for the Bulldogs, who improve to 10-2 overall.
The two Southern Illinois River-to-River Ohio Division heavyweights were never able to get much separation amongst them and while Massac County got to within a point of Harrisburg at 36-35 in the fourth quarter after a pair of free throws from senior guard Eli Windhorst, Harrisburg turned to Saulsberry in the closing minutes to secure a spot in Saturday's semifinals.
Harrisburg built a 42-35 lead in the final eight minutes, before Massac County's Isaiah Thompson gave the Patriots their first field goal of the quarter with 2:47 to play.
From there, Harrisburg knocked down 6-of-10 free throws in the final two-plus minutes for the victory.
"I talked to the guys about how important this game is because this is the game that gets you to the Final Four," Harrisburg head coach Randy Smithpeters said. "This is the game that provides you with the experiences that you're only going to get once in a lifetime. We have a lot of seniors sitting in the locker room and that's a factor. I think it's a factor when we take the court, that we have that leadership, that experience and guys that really want to win because it's important to them. I thought we played a great game."
Thompson led the Patriots (3-8) with a team-high 12 points and was the only player to score in double figures for Massac County.
Harrisburg is now in the semifinals of the EHT for the 10th time in the last 12 years.
"That really all runs together," Smithpeters said. "We're thinking about the next game and we want to keep going. I think its something that these guys know their predecessors went and they've sat in the same locker room as some of those other guys did and as a coach, I tend to look at it one game at a time. Those guys look at the history and tradition a little more than I do. We're just happy to be there and want to go one more step."
Harrisburg made seven 3-pointers in the first half, including five in the first quarter to take a 19-10 lead.
The Bulldogs were stagnant in the second quarter, missing their first six shots, while Massac used a 7-0 run to get to within two at 19-17, before Carson Burtis (responsible for three first half triectas) put up a runner with 3:08 to play to break the drought for the 'Dogs, giving them a 21-17 lead.
Harrisburg got two more 3 balls from Saulsberry to close out the first half with a 27-19 lead.
Burtis had 14 points for Harrisburg, while Dalton Lambert scored seven, Jordan Bartok tacked on three, while Will Sanders and Will Gibbs each tossed in a free throw.
Harrisburg 53, Massac County 46
Harrisburg 19 08 07 19 -- 53
Massac County 10 09 14 13 -- 46
Harrisburg: Burtis 5 1-2 14, Saulsberry 8 7-10, Lambert 2 2-2 7, Bartok 1 1-2 3, Sanders 0 1-2 1, Gibbs 0 1-3 1. Totals: 16 13-21.
Massac County: Vickers 1 0-0 3, Taylor 3 2-4 8, Burgess 1 0-0 2, Thompson 5 2-5 12, Mizell 1 0-0 3, Yates 3 2-2 8, Lee 1 0-0 2, Windhorst 1 2-2 5, Russell 1 0-0 3. Totals: 17 7-12 46.
3-point FG: HBG 8 (Burtis 3, Saulsberry 4, Lambert), MCHS 4 (Vickers, Mizell, Windhorst, Russell); Fouls: HBG 13, MCHS 19.