BELLAIRE - Someone forgot to tell Bellaire that it was supposed to roll over and allow Harrison Central an easy go of it in the Huskies' season opener.
Through three quarters, the youthful Big Reds fought, scratched and clawed to stay in the hunt. With eight minutes left in regulation, the score was knotted at 32 apiece against a taller and more experienced Harrison squad.
Experience, however, began to pay off for the visitors as senior Fletcher Watt took control of the fourth, scoring 11 of his game-high 19 points as the Huskies (1-0) pulled away for a 68-58 triumph.
"When we needed someone to step up and make a play, we got it," Harrison coach Justin Clifford said. "But give Bellaire credit. They outscrapped us. They outdid us in everything except scoring. They played hard."
Watt's presence was missed for the majority of the first half as the four-year letterwinner was a spectator because of foul trouble.
The Huskies actually shot well, percentage wise, hitting 45 percent for the game. But Bellaire's scrappy defensive unit was making the visitors work for every shot.
Harrison Central 58, Bellaire 48
Harrison Central 9 16 7 26 - 58
Bellaire 10 11 11 16 - 48
HARRISON CENTRAL (58) - K. Mitchell 0-4 1-2 1; Kowalski 3-11 1-2 8; Watt 6-8 6-11 19; C.Mitchell 7-10 4-4 18; Pelegreen 6-12 0-3 12; Evans 0-3 0-0 0; Olmstead 0-0 0-0 0; Rutter 0-0 0-0 0; Totals: 22-48 12-22 58. 3-pointers: Kowalski, Watt.
BELLAIRE (48) - Steele 3-8 4-4 12; Callarik 5-11 0-0 10; Patrone 3-11 0-0 7; Hess 4-9 5-8 13; Ellison 1-2 1-2 3; Kimbro 0-0 0-0 0; Westlake 0-0 0-0 0; Back 1-1 1-2 3; Totals: 17-42 11-16 48. 3-pointers: Steele 2, Patrone.
Rashaen Mitchell finished with a game-high 16 rebounds to go with his 12 points. But if he wasn't grabbing the errant shots, Bellaire was. Harrison's second shot opportunities were few and far between.
That enabled Bellaire to either maintain a slight lead or stay within striking distance until a 10-0 run with 2:50 remaining in the fourth put the game out of reach.
The dagger came with 2:20 remaining. Watt had just converted a convetional three-point play to put Harrison up 45-41. Bellaire worked own the court but was forced into one of its 23 turnovers.
Austin Kowalski then canned a triple from the wing, putting the Huskies up seven.
Bellaire handled the ball well in spurts, but when the Huskies implemented a half-court trap in both the second and fourth quarters, the miscues began to mount.
"It was tough when they have a 6-foot-5 kid (Mitchell) on the trap and another 6-3, 6-4 kid (Nick Pelegreen) in the paint," Bellaire coach J.R. Battista said. "There was really nowhere for us to go and that's a credit to them. They pressured us.
"Harrison is a veteran team with three seniors who have been playing for four years and they made the plays."
Pelegreen was the third Huskies' player in double figures, finishing with 12.
Bellaire received a balanced scoring effort from its starting unit. Kyle Hess had 13 points and eight rebounds, Nathan Steele had 12 points and Ryan Callarik added 10 and five boards. Nick Patrone tallied seven points.