BOYS BB: No. 4 Kokomo beats Harrison, advances to face Jeff

Feb. 28—LAFAYETTE — Kokomo's boys basketball team rocked Harrison with an 18-0 opening blitz and a 12-0 closing run in the Class 4A Lafayette Jeff Sectional opener on Tuesday at the Crawley Center.

In between, Harrison made things interesting with hot 3-point shooting.

No. 4-ranked Kokomo used the bookend runs to take a 69-50 victory, which advances the Wildkats (23-3) to Friday's semifinal round where they will face Lafayette Jeff (13-9).

Harrison (12-12) closed to within six points, 54-48, early in the fourth quarter before Kokomo regained control.

"We weren't very connected defensively or offensively. We kind of struggled," Kokomo coach John Peckinpaugh said. "We gave up a lot of open 3s. We have to be better defensively and really value things more than we valued things [Tuesday].

"We just have to play more as a team."

Kokomo's front-line duo of seniors Karson Rogers and Flory Bidunga overwhelmed Harrison with their typically dominant play. Indiana All-Star candidate Rogers finished with 26 points, 16 rebounds (four offensive) and seven assists while Mr. Basketball candidate Bidunga recorded 19 points and 15 rebounds for his 70th career double-double along with four assists and two blocked shots.

Rogers was 11 of 16 from the field and Bidunga was 8 of 9.

"We have to keep getting it into them and playing through the post," Peckinpaugh said.

Also for the Kats, Zion Bellamy scored eight points and dished four assists and Reis Beard scored seven points.

Kokomo looked ready to run Harrison out of the gym in the first quarter. The Kats scored the first 18 points and led 19-3 at the close of the quarter at which point Kokomo was 8 of 11 from the field and Harrison was 1 of 14.

The Raiders started to settle in during the second quarter, but the Kats still seemed in firm control when A'Dayveon Young beat the halftime buzzer with a 3-pointer for a 37-22 lead.

The Raiders caught fire from 3-land in the third quarter. They hit five triples as they chipped away at the Kats' lead. Ray Gibson's long 3 beat the buzzer and made it a 10-point game, 53-43, at the close of the quarter.

Gibson hit another 3 early in the fourth quarter and dished to Malachi King for a dunk to bring Harrison within 54-48 with 6:54 remaining. Kokomo's Bellamy answered with a much-needed 3-pointer at 6:41 to stop the Raiders' momentum. After Gibson made two free throws at 6:22, the Kats closed with the 12-0 run during which the Raiders missed 14 straight shots.

Bidunga started the closing run with a post basket and Rogers added two baskets and two free throws to help put the game away.

The Raiders finished 11 of 41 (26.8%) from 3-land. They made 9 of 19 over the middle two quarters to fuel their rally.

"I think we held them to 26 percent from 3, which is usually pretty good," Peckinpaugh said. "They did hit some, but they shot a lot."

Gibson led the Raiders with 16 points and King had 15 points.

Kokomo out-rebounded Harrison 44-21, but the Kats committed 12 turnovers — eight more than the Raiders.

Peckinpaugh is happy to be moving on to the semifinal round.

"Whenever you can win by 19 and kind of think it's an ugly win, I'd say that's a good day," he said.

Kokomo will take a 14-game winning streak into its semifinal game against Lafayette Jeff. The Kats beat the Bronchos 65-41 in a North Central Conference game on Jan. 26 at Memorial Gym.

"I think it will be a similar game [to Tuesday]. I think they're going to shoot a lot of 3s and try to keep it out of the lane. We have to do a good job of taking that away," Peckinpaugh said.

Bryan Gaskins is the Tribune's sports editor. He may be reached at or 765-454-8567.