Sierra girls victorious while Harrison boys earn a win on the road
By Marcus Hill
The Southeast Express
The decade’s first installment of the Harrison High School Panthers/Sierra Stallions rivalry was another chapter of memorable moments from all teams.
Sierra High School’s girls basketball team got a pair of 20-point games from its star players, while Harrison’s squad had a 20-piece from a gem of a player.
The boys’ tilt was briefly halted by a fire alarm and chock-full of defense from the Stallions and Panthers.
Each team walked away Saturday, Jan. 25, with a victory on the opposing squad’s court.
Sierra 65, Harrison 40
At Thorpe Gymnasium, the Stallions jumped out to a 5-0 lead, sparked by Azaria Lacour, and they never looked back.
“I just flow with the team,” Lacour said. “If I’m scoring I’m going to keep going and they’re going to keep feeding it to me. If D’Nae (Wilson) is flowing, I’m going to keep feeding it to her.”
An end-of-the-quarter buzzer-beater from Harrison’s Amyah Moore cut the Stallions’ lead to 18-10, but the rush of Sierra proved too much.
“It’s monumental for our district because we know we are the better team,” Wilson said. “It’s not to diss Harrison because they’ve had strong teams in the past. But we’ve always come out on top, except for last year. We ran into some team issues, but for our rivalry, Sierra always comes out on top.”
The Stallions lost 59-53 at Harrison on Feb. 12, 2019, but are 10-1 in the past six seasons against the Panthers, including Saturday’s game.
After the Stallions took a 33-19 lead to the break, the Panthers chipped away at the deficit. Moore hit a lay up with 3:52 on the clock in the third, got back on defense and knocked the ball away from Lacour.
The ball bounced near the out-of-bounds line, but instead hit the ref in his right leg and remained inbounds. Normally, that’s not a notable play, but Lacour collected the ball, sank a 3-pointer to make it 43-28 with 3:28 left in the frame. That ignited an 8-0 run that ballooned the lead to 48-28 and forced a Harrison time out.
Wilson and Lacour combined for 42 points in the game and spearheaded a run that put Harrison away in the third quarter.
“It just felt good to me,” Lacour said of her shot that sparked the run. “I knew I was open so I shot it and it went in.”
The Stallions led 50-36 after the third but Harrison didn’t roll over.
Harrison’s Diamond Moore had one of her best performances of the season and dropped 22 points – 12 came in the third and six of those in the final two minutes of the quarter.
She thanked Panthers coach Charles Thomas for his encouraging words and their player-coach bond. Thomas also boosted her confidence in the locker room at the break.
“He said I have to push,” she said. “He told me it wouldn’t be easy and I knew that. So I gave it my all. I don’t give up, I give it my all, I give it 100 percent; I know everyone is watching and I know I have people watching me and looking up to me. So I have to do what I have to do.”
Diamond Moore’s run ended in the fourth when she was called for her fifth foul and sat the remaining 5:47.
“I trust my teammates,” she said. “It’s just that I’m the big and there are other girls out here who can do my job, but that’s my role on the team. I knew I had to cheer and support my team.”
The Panthers mustered just four more points – all by Amyah Moore – in the final frame of the contest.
Harrison 41, Sierra 33
The final score marked the lowest point total of the year for both teams, but the game didn’t lack action. It provided offense and defensive stops from both teams playing at Sierra High School. It also had a brief pause due to a fire alarm going off from burning popcorn.
Panthers coach Eric Kaiser said this was a great game for the community.
“The most important thing is they had fun,” Kaiser said. “The team over there at Sierra has probably one of the best coaches (Terry Dunn) in the state, in my opinion; possibly in the country. I’ve taken a lot of notes from him over the years, and at the end of the day, we have an ex-player over here who coaches and we have an ex-player over there who is coaching. This is awesome for the community.”
The Stallions opened with a pair of threes from Dailen Terry and Josiah Bean, to make it 6-2 with 4:25 on the clock.
Then, Harrison’s Donta Dawson took over. His 3-pointer cut the lead to 6-5 and teammate Jaylean Franck’s lay up gave the Panthers a 7-6 advantage.
Dawson went on to score eight more points for Harrison to make it 14-6 at the end of the first. He opened Harrison’s second-quarter scoring with a deuce to build their lead to 16-8.
After a five-minute delay due to the fire alarm, The Stallions chipped away at the lead. A 12-4 run capped by Terry made it 20-20 with 1:11 left in the half.
The Panthers’ Xavier Sterling closed the half with a pair of free throws to make it 22-20 at the break.
Both teams suffered droughts in the third and fourth quarters, scoring 19 and 13 points, respectively. A free throw from Terry with 5:20 in the fourth cut the Panthers’ lead to 31-28 and ended the Stallions 7-minute, 48-second dry spell.
Big shots and defense from Franck and CJ Harris kept the Stallions at bay, and Dawson and Tayzhean Archuleta put the nails in the coffin.
In the fourth, Sierra scrambled to get a 3-pointer, and finally got an open look with 27 seconds left.
Harrison’s Dawson successfully swatted the shot with both hands, came down with the ball in bounds and flipped it to Archuleta.
“Sierra always plays hard and they always want to give us their best,” Dawson said. “This was exciting for us. There was a lot of talking from them in the offseason, so we wanted to shut that up.”
Archuleta’s pair of free throws gave the game its final margin.
“For the boys to bounce back how they did tonight after (Thursday night’s 65-58 loss to) Thomas Jefferson is great,” Kaiser said. “I didn’t have them prepared for that. There were certain things I could have done to put them in a better spot. But with this squad, they’re always focused. A few people were saying, ‘This is Sierra.’ But they know to treat this as another game. They don’t get too caught up and just take it one game at a time.”
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Sierra’s boys are at home against Elizabeth and Harrison is at home against Mitchell. Both games are at 7 p.m. Tuesday.