COOLIDGE — While they have yet to lose a game to any team not named Florence, Coolidge has been winning without Nick Harrison fully showing off what he can do from beyond the arc.
That ended on Friday.
Harrison seemed like he couldn’t miss against San Tan Foothills (2-9), and the state pretty much backed that up. With bench and crowd alike rising to their feet every time he squared up to shoot, he knocked down 9 of his 11 attempts from 3, and 11 of 14 shots overall en route to a 31-points night.
It was a performance reminiscent of what made Harrison such a force as a sophomore, before he tore his ACL. It’s also his season-high for points, the previous being 22 against Arizona College Prep in a game where he made six 3’s.
He came just shy of the school record for 3-pointers in a game, which is held by Randy Youtsey with 11. He might have broken that record, too, except he didn’t play in the fourth quarter because the Bears (9-2) had the game under control, and won 85-40.
“I was waiting for something like that to come up sooner or later,” Harrison said. “I just had the mentality of scoring. I knew this was gonna be a big one to have a home game and get back to number 1 in our region.”
Right from the start it was apparent that Harrison had his shot going against Foothills, but right alongside him was Kam Steward. The two combined for 21 points in the first quarter alone, going back and forth with Foothills guard Gavin Johnson, who had 9 points of his own in that period. Coolidge, though, forced some key turnovers to take an early nine-point lead.
The Bears continued feeding Steward the ball in the post, where the Sabercats had no success stopping the big man. Steward finished the game with 18 points while shooting 9/10 from the field. In fact, the only time he missed he got his own rebound — one of eight for the game — and put it right back in for the score.
“It’s basically already two points (when he gets the ball), because he’s so skilled down there,” Harrison said. “And if they double-team him, I’ll be wide open in the corner, so it’s a nice two-man offense.”
Coolidge coach Dave Glasgow wasn’t too pleased with how the Bears defense started the game, especially when it came to guarding Johnson, but they played better as a unit as the game went on. They held the Sabercats to only 13 points in the second half.
Between Harrison and Steward making everything, some great playmaking by Kishon Butler and solid defense from Brayden Gant, the Bears finally had something they haven’t often experienced as they have gone through their tough schedule — a big lead going into the fourth quarter. This allowed Glasgow to empty the bench and give players like Anthony Felix Jr., Dylen Bechtel and Belclem Namgabe some playing time down the stretch.
“We’d have been running all day at practice tomorrow if they had blown that,” Glasgow said.
Not only did they prevent that from happening, but they actually won the quarter 11-4.
The Bears came into the game ranked fifth in the 3A conference. And with Florence losing Friday night to Tucson Pusch Ridge, those three teams are now tied for the lead in their region, with their big matchup against Pusch Ridge on Nov. 26. The region can still go to any of them.
“We’re still just taking it one game at a time to try to get better,” Glasgow said. “The state tournament is two weeks from now, so we have to be ready.”