FOUNTAIN LAKE - After finishing the first half of conference play at 5-2, the Harmony Grove Cardinals have done a total 180 since getting back to work. After having their return game against Perryville canceled due to inclement weather, the Cardinals went on the road to Mayflower and lost 70-57. On Tuesday, the Cardinals continued to spin downward, falling to Fountain Lake on the road 59-54.
“I thought we got off to a slow start, both mentally and physically,” Head Coach Dexter Hendrix said. “I thought we settled for a lot of contested jump shots and that played right into [Fountain Lake’s] hands all night.”
Harmony Grove beat the Cobras earlier in the year at home, 34-23. On Tuesday, the Cardinals found themselves in a fast dogfight. After missing their first three shots from the field, the Cardinals took the game’s first lead on a short bucket from junior Hayden Burchfield.
The lead was short-lived, though, as the Cobras put together a 9-2 run to go up 9-4. After a good jumper from Gabe Richard and a long 3-pointer from Bryce Sossamon, Harmony Grove was right back in it with the score tied at 9-9 at the end of the first quarter.
The second, however, was not as kind to Harmony Grove. With the game knotted at 9-9, the Cobras started the second quarter on fire, beginning with a 3-pointer to take a 12-9 advantage. Luckily for the Cardinals, Sossamon was still feeling it from outside, busting his second 3-pointer of the half to tie the game back up.
With both teams battling back and forth, Fountain Lake had seen enough and threw together a 12-6 run to end the half with a 24-18 lead over the Cardinals.
“They had trouble guarding us in the first half, like teams often do,” Hendrix said. “How shots just were not falling and we were settling for things both offensively and defensively.”
With hopes of taking control in the second half, Harmony Grove came out of the locker room flatter than it was in the first 16 minutes, hitting just two buckets and a free throw in the third quarter. Fountain Lake, however, was on fire on both ends of the court. After playing a close contest for two quarters, the Cobras jumped out in front in the third, outscoring the Cardinals 16-5 to take a 40-23 lead with eight minutes left in regulation.
After being kicked around for the first three quarters, Harmony Grove fell behind 44-24 with just over six minutes left in the game. Down 20 late in the ballgame, the Cardinals were far from out of the contest. Needing a big run, the Cardinals turned to their leading scorer Mitch Scoggins. With time steadily ticking away, along with the Cardinals’ hopes, Scoggins began to warm up from 3-point land.
With the score in Fountain Lake’s favor at 50-35, Scoggins began his tear, hitting four straight 3-pointers to pull Harmony Grove back to within seven at 51-44, still with plenty of time on the clock. After another Sossamon long ball, Scoggins added two free throws and his fifth 3-pointer of the game to close the score to 56-52 with 1:30 left in the game. Down just four with a minute to go, the Cardinals could not take the lead back, falling to the Cobras 59-54.
“We have got to figure out that we have to play with that fourth quarter intensity for all four quarters,” Hendrix said. “That is not only in a game but in practice too. Once we figure that out, we will be okay.”
Burchfield found himself in foul trouble early in the game and was forced to sit the bench for most of the second quarter. Despite getting his fourth foul early on in the second half, the big man continued to battle and did not foul out.
“It is the same old story,” Hendrix said. “We have got to work on not getting into foul trouble. Burchfield is doing a better job, but he still has to learn to play straight up and make teams score over the top of him. A contested job from him is almost as good as a blocked shot a lot of the time.”
Despite the loss, Scoggins put together an impressive game, leading the Cardinals with 21 points, fueled largely by five fourth-quarter 3-pointers.
“We ask a lot of Scoggins and he is definitely our leader,” Hendrix said. “We still need more from him as a vocal leader on and off of the floor. He is our go-to guy. He played his heart out in the fourth quarter to get us back in it, but we need that for four quarters.”
Sossamon followed with 13 while Burchfield added just nine in the game.
On the other side, Fountain Lake guard Andrew Freeman scored a game-high 31 going 17 for 20 from the free-throw line.
The Cardinals did win the rebound battle, snatching four more boards at 27 to 23.
“We have just got to stay hungry and want it more, especially this time of year,” Hendrix said. “We have got to want it more and tonight, [Fountain Lake] wanted it more for three quarters. We kind of woke up in the fourth quarter, but you can’t wait to wake up in the fourth quarter.”