It was a game that was not for the feint of heart. The Charleston Tigers, in dramatic fashion, down five points with 1:08 remaining in their first round state playoff game with Benton Harmony Grove, clawed their way back to victory by a score of 40-39 to advance to Friday’s second round. Charleston senior Brevyn Ketter stepped to the line to complete the victory by hitting a free throw after scoring the tying basket with 2.8 seconds remaining in the game.
Harmony Grove is a talented team that includes great athleticism and height. Sporting several players significantly taller than 6’2″, the Cardinals were a force in the lane. The game was a low-scoring, hard-fought contest. And in the end, the battle-tested Tigers prevailed in a “refuse to lose” manner when things looked bleak for Charleston with just one minute remaining.
Charleston, down 37-32 with 1:04 remaining in the game, began what would become an improbable comeback. The Tigers’ Drake Dodson hit a jumper with 44 seconds remaining that was originally called as a two point shot by the officials. After a timeout to confer, the shot was changed to a three pointer for the Tigers, making the score 37-35 Harmony Grove.
Reese Merechka scored after missed free throw attempts by Harmony Grove, bringing the score to 39-37 Harmony Grove with 20.2 seconds remaining. Charleston created a turnover of possession to get the ball back at the 17.9 seconds mark. Senior Brevyn Ketter took an assist and scored from under the basket to tie the game and was fouled in the act of shooting. The score was tied at 39 with 4.5 seconds remaining. Ketter stepped to the line and drained the free throw to give Charleston one of its few leads in the game.
Harmony Grove called time out after inbounding the ball with 3.1 seconds remaining. Then, attempting to inbound the ball on the sideline next to their own bench, Harmony Grove’s inbounds pass with deflected by Reese Merechka and Merechka followed the ball and prevented Harmony Grove from ever touching it…and time expired. Charleston, in an epic comeback, had defeated Harmony Grove, 40-39.
After the game, a very proud Charleston coach, B. J. Ross, praised his team by saying, “What a game. We are so relentless and there is absolutely no quit in the Tigers. How big was Reese Merechka? He played his most complete game of the year. They (Harmony Grove) did a great job of taking Brandon away and we had guys step up. Reese, Brevyn, Drake, Sebastian, Bryton…all did a great job at what they are suppose to do. Our team understands their roles so well. Sebastian battled the 6’9″ kid all night and never took a shot. How many kids would do that these days? Not many but he’s a special one that understands his role and just wants to win.”
The dramatic win by the Tigers advances Charleston to the second round of the state tournament that will be played on Friday, March 3, at Lamar High School. At press time for this story, their opponent was not known. Charleston will play the winner of Rose Bud and Manilla at 2:30 p.m.
In an earlier state tournament first round game, conference 3A-4 member Booneville fell to Dumas by the score of 76-32. Many are predicting Dumas to be playing in Hot Springs for the 3A state championship. Congratulations to the Booneville Bearcats on a great year. The Bearcats played with a very young roster in 2022-23 and should be a conference front-runner next season.
RNN Sports will be in Ozark today for the first round of the Class 1A state tournament. We will be covering the County Line Indians and their quest for a state title.
Photos from Charleston’s game with Harmony Grove can be found on Facebook at Charleston Tigers Sports.
Congratulations to the Tigers, and stay with RNN Sports for complete state tournament coverage!