SPORTS >> Harding Academy beats buzzer, rival
By JASON KING
The cross-town rivalry game was filled with drama, but Jordan Smith’s buzzer-beating lay-in for Harding Academy gave it a made-for-TV ending no after-school special could match.
Smith’s final play helped the Wildcats beat 2-3A Conference rival Riverview 38-37 in the third-place game of the Beebe Christmas Classic tournament at Badger Sports Arena on Wednesday. Smith drove through the lane and put up a shot that rolled around the rim three times before dropping in just as the buzzer sounded.
“We found a way to make it exciting and blow about a 13-point lead,” Wildcats coach Brad Francis said. “The kids kept their composure and did what we needed to do at the end, and we got that shot to go. It makes it an exciting win for sure.”
The Raiders (12-4) overcame a 28-15 deficit with 2:19 left in the third quarter and led most of the final period thanks to the shooting of guard Keinan Lee, but the Wildcats (7-2) put a stop to Lee’s three-point spree in the final quarter and allowed only one Riverview field goal in the final five minutes.
Lee made 4 of 4 three-pointers in the last 1:53 of the third quarter to fuel a 15-1 run and put the Raiders ahead 30-29 at the start of the fourth quarter after they had trailed by 14.
Wildcats junior post player Daniel Stevens extended Harding Academy’s lead in the early stages of the third quarter with a pair of inside shots.
Wildcats freshman Will Francis hit his fifth and final three-pointer with 2:19 left in the quarter and drew a foul after the shot.
He made the free throw to give Harding Academy a 28-15 lead.
Lee had been quiet up to that point, content in trying to find Smith and senior Jordan Perry. But Lee made a long three-pointer with 1:53 left in the third and another with 1:23 left that cut the lead to 28-21.
“I thought the key was that we were making turnovers in the second half that we weren’t making in the first half,” Brad Francis said. “Several of those turnovers turned into opportunities for them, and they obviously shot the ball better in the second half.
I didn’t think we contested as well, but you have to give them credit for finding a way to get back in it.”
The only interruption in the Riverview run was a free throw by Stevens, but the Raiders quickly picked up the charge again when Smith and Lee made three-pointers.
Lee’s shot with 15 seconds left in the quarter made it 29-27, then the Raiders forced the Wildcats into a turnover in the near court. Lee capped off the period with his fourth three-pointer just before the buzzer to hand Riverview a one-point lead.
It was the outside shooting of Will Francis that made the difference in the first half. Francis hit the first of his four three-pointers with 1:21 left in the first quarter to give the Wildcats their first lead at 8-7, and he extended the lead with another three-pointer with 6:58 left in the half.
Two straight baskets for Riverview junior guard Taylor Smith made it a one-point game, but Francis made his fourth three-pointer, followed by a three-point basket by Lane Dailey with 2:19 left.
That put the Wildcats up 20-13, and the teams were scoreless over the final two minutes of the half.
Francis led the Wildcats with 22 points while Lee led the Raiders with 16.Dailey and Smith each added five points for the Wildcats, and Smith finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds and two steals for Riverview.
The Raiders out-rebounded the Wildcats 23-13.
The exciting matchup was the first of at least three games for the two schools, which sit fewer than three miles apart and will play two regular-season conference games.
“The kids all know each other; we’re close,” Francis said. “It’s a fun, good rivalry in football and basketball. Just with the locations, it’s always going to be like that.”