Darius Harper wanted some redemption and got it.
Springfield High School’s 6-foot-8 sophomore center played just over 11 minutes because of foul trouble Saturday afternoon, but he stood tall at the charity stripe with the game on the line.
Harper’s two free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining lifted the Wildcats boys basketball team to a 67-66 triumph over Hamilton in the Greater Miami Conference/Greater Western Ohio Conference Holiday Hoops Challenge at Fairfield.
“I was a little bit more nervous than confident on the first one,” Harper admitted. “With free throws, you’ve got to have a short memory, make or miss. I had to come through for the team because I wasn’t coming through the whole game. I had to do something to produce.”
Big Blue (3-6) could only manage a desperation bomb beyond halfcourt at the buzzer, suffering their third loss by three points or less in the last two weeks.
Christian Jones matched his career high with 29 points for HHS. Jamil Daniels added 15 points and seven rebounds, and A’Shon Riggins scored 11 points.
“Nothing goes our way at the end of the game. It’s been that way all year,” Jones said. “We’ve got to practice harder, go 100 percent on every single drill. Our heads need to stay clear. We need to have confidence in everybody.”
Hamilton trailed by eight points in the final three minutes, then rallied to move ahead three times before losing.
“I’m really proud of our kids. I thought they showed great effort, great enthusiasm to get back and get the lead,” Big Blue coach Tim Robinson said. “We’ve just got to find a way to end it. We’ve got to want the ball and go get the ball.
“I don’t really look at the end of the game. I look at us making 23 of 37 free throws. We can’t miss that many at the line.”
Four players scored in double figures for Springfield (7-1): Anthony Freeman (13), Henry Alexander (12), Danny Davis (11) and Guy Victoria (11). The Wildcats were 9 of 17 beyond the arc (HHS was 7 of 17).
“Way to fight,” Springfield coach Isiah Carson said of his team’s performance. “Hamilton did a good job. It pretty much came down to who had the ball last.”
Jones has put up 83 points in his last three games for Hamilton. The senior guard scored 11 in the fourth period Saturday.
“The first couple games I wasn’t really in shape,” said Jones, who also totaled five boards and three steals. “I’ve been practicing a lot harder to shape up, and it’s paying off. I need to be a leader on this team.”
Victoria’s eight rebounds led the Wildcats to a 41-30 edge on the glass. Alexander and Dashawn Cordell both dished out six assists.