PALATINE, Ill. – The Harper College men's basketball team overcame an 11-point second half deficit and found their shooting rhythm to pick up a 81-64 nonconference win over the visit Olivet Nazarene JV team and earn their seventh consecutive victory.
"The guys really showed a lot of character, a lot of heart," said Harper assistant coach Cliff McSwine. "If we want to aspire to be a champion, this is the kind of effort it's going to take."
The Hawks (7-3) built an early 24-13 lead over the Tigers in the game's first 14 minutes behind 11 early points from guard Kevin Walsh (/St. Viator). Olivet slowly chipped away at the lead and cut it to two right before the half.Kevin Sexton (/Prospect)'s bucket with four seconds remaining gave Harper a 32-28 advantage, but Abe Barwegan beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer to make it 32-31 heading into the second half.
The Tigers carried that momentum into the second half, going on a 14-2 run behind strong interior play from Seth Johnson (game-high 23 points) to open up a 45-34 lead with 15:45 to play.
Harper slowly climbed back into the game with stout defense and two 3-pointers from Tyler Gaedele (Arlington Heights, Ill./Rolling Meadows ) (11 points). The Hawks regained the lead at 51-50 with just under 10 minutes to play on a pair of Will Botefuhr (Arlington Heights, Ill./Prospect) baskets on the interior.
"Once we turned it on defensively, we got some easy buckets and the momentum changed," said Walsh, who had a team-high 22 points.
Harper went on a 20-6 run over the next six minutes, keyed by several stops on the defensive end and capped off by a Walsh's sixth 3-pointer of the contest to give the Hawks a 71-56 cushion with 3:40 remaining.
McSwine acknowledged the defense being the key to turning it around and knew his shooters would eventually find their groove.
Sexton scored 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting from the line for Harper while Bradley Reibel (/Prospect) scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
"We knew how good we were, and with the 0-3 start we didn't play nearly as good as we could," Walsh said. "Coach (Tony Amarino) told us once we got one (win), we'd get a lot. And he was right."
The Hawks return to the court next Tuesday for a nonconference tilt with Oakton Community College at 7 PM in the Wellness & Sports Center.