DARIEN -- For the Harding boys basketball team, Friday was the night of the 3-ball. In total, the Presidents sank 13 shots from beyond the arc. Doing so allowed them to pull away from Darien in the third quarter en route to their second straight win, 74-61.
Reginald Stewart and Donte Davis led the way for the Presidents by dropping 27 and 12 points, including seven and four treys, respectively.
"When I played high school basketball, we knew the 3-point shot was big. It stretches the defense, and then you can drive a little bit. Coaching is easier when you're making shots," Harding coach Charles Clemons said. "Darien has a tough group. I thought we played inspired basketball tonight. We shared the ball well and kept everybody accountable. The third quarter we stretched it out a little bit, but it wasn't easy."
Also attempting to get their second straight win, the Blue Wave managed to keep the game close and trailed just 28-27 at the halftime.
Ultimately, however, Darien's inability to guard the perimeter contributed greatly to the loss.
"We let their pressure effect us and we just made some bad plays," Darien coach Kyle Marian said. "Turnovers, leaving shooters open. It's an opportunity wasted. This is a team that we thought we could beat."
Just a few minutes into the third, Harding's advantage was a slim 33-31, but the Presidents (5-9) went on a 19-5 tear to boost their lead to 52-36. During the run, the Presidents hit four 3-pointers, including three by Donte Dennis.
A 3-pointer by Darien's Liam Naughton made the score 52-39 heading into the fourth, but the damage was done.
Darien (3-11) opened the fourth on a quick 5-0 run with all five points coming from Matt Staubi, but Harding quickly regained control. Midway through the fourth, Harding went on a 12-0 run on four consecutive 3s by Stewart, Donte Dennis, Davaun McAlister and Stewart to put the game out of reach at 70-48.
With its second consecutive win, Harding improved its record to 5-9 with six games remaining. A finish of 3-3 or better would put the Presidents into the state tournament.
"Every game is big," Clemons said. "The seniors are taking initiative and talking about getting to that state tournament level."
The loss dropped Darien to 3-11, meaning making states would require a stretch run of at least 5-1.
"The guys work hard and they hustle, but the moral victories don't show up in the stats and the standings," Marian said. "Slow rotations on defense. Being flat-footed and not moving when the ball moves. We didn't do the little things tonight, and when you don't do the little things you can't win the big games."
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HARDING 74, DARIEN 61
Liam Naughton 7 0-0 16, George Phillips 7 0-0 15, Ames Murray 4 3-3 11, Matt Staubi 4 2-3 10, Henry Baldwin 3 0-0 6, Ian Burgoyne 0 2-2 2, Bobby Fitzpatrick 0 1-2 1 . Totals: 25 8-10 61.
Reginald Stewart 10 0-1 27, Donte Dennis 5 0-0 12, Davaun McAlister 4 2-2 11, Terrence Rogers 3 2-2 9, Avery Monk 2 0-0 4, Jayvon Smalls 2 0-0 4, Kin'shawn Pettway 1 1-2 3, Dexter Dennis 1 0-0 2, Jaymar Gaynor 1 0-0 2. Totals: 29 5-7 74.
HARDING 15 13 24 22--74
DARIEN 13 14 12 22--61
3-pointers: D-Naughton 2, Phillips; H-Stewart 7, Donte Dennis 4, McAlister, Rogers.