Pleasant Hill, Sports Zone

Billies avenge only conference loss in dominating fashion vs. Harrisburg

HARRISBURG – The Pleasant Hill Billies boys basketball team took a huge step toward at least a share of the Mountain Valley Conference title on Saturday night, routing 8th-ranked Harrisburg 67-35 on their home floor. The win avenged Pleasant Hill’s sole conference loss this season – a 46-41 defeat at Pleasant Hill on Jan. 5.

“Something that was really big with us all week in practice was just making sure we controlled the tempo. Last time they kind of came into our house and forced us to take early shots and to get out of our rhythm,” said Pleasant Hill junior Gavin Inglish, the reigning MVC Player of the Year. “We made it very vocal in practice and in the locker room before the game, just come out and set the energy early.”

That Jan. 5 loss was Pleasant Hill’s lowest-scoring output of the season, and was in part because the Eagles scored the first 15 points of the game and never trailed. 

This time around, the Billies flipped the script, taking a 12-0 lead and leading 19-4 at the end of the first quarter. The Billies never looked back, leading the entire second half by at least 20 points – Inglish and sophomore Landen Melvin leading the way with 18 points apiece.

“Being inspired, that’s what it’s about tonight. It’s our third game in six days, and I’m super proud of them. It’s been about discipline in practice. Our players came together for this game, knowing how big it was for league, but more importantly, just coming together as a team,” said Pleasant Hill coach Darwin Terry. “I thought this week has been us defining as a team, ‘Who are we?’ And I think defensively we’ve done that. And that’s been our inspiration; locking down our defense.”

The defense did more than lock down. After being held to a season-low on their own floor, the Billies returned the favor, holding Harrisburg to its lowest score of the season. Pleasant Hill, ranked No. 3 in Class 3A, moved to 14-3 on the season and 5-1 in MVC play with a three-win week. 

High stakes

The revenge over Harrisburg was especially important because of the title-race implications. 

An 0-2 record against another title contender makes a conference title nearly impossible, as Harrisburg would have had to lose three of its last six games for the Billies to grab the title.

“It was definitely on my mind. I knew the importance of the game, and honestly with the kids, because they’re a veteran team, I don’t hide that from them. I think they can deal with the pressure,” Terry said. “They knew what was at stake coming into the game as far as league is concerned. But I’ll back up to the fact that it’s more about what we did on the court to get better as a basketball team. But yes, that was definitely something that was on our mind – knowing where we all sit in the Mountain Valley Conference.”

Harrisburg has played one more conference game and thus is still technically alone in first, but if everything holds the rest of the season, Pleasant Hill would earn a share of its first conference title since the 2018-19 season.

“We haven’t won league since I’ve been here. So this year especially, it felt like we were kind of the favorites coming in,” Inglish said. “To take that shot early from them and then come back and get it back and put ourselves back in a good spot … it feels really good.”

Handling the stress

Terry said he trusts this team with the pressure, and now he’ll have to trust them to not take any remaining games for granted. 

Despite passing their biggest test of the conference season, the Billies still have six conference games remaining, and will need all six to keep up with Harrisburg – while also holding off the reigning MVC champs in Creswell, which is 4-2 in conference play.

“I’ve liked the growth of our team and the development (through league). Right now in the locker room the kids are excited, talking about, ‘Hey, let’s play like this every game.’ And I think we got them to buy in, and it shows what happens when you’re disciplined,” Terry said. 

“It’s not going to be easy. Harrisburg is tough, but Creswell was tough at their place, I think they’ve got a lot of talent. And we have to play like we did tonight to beat those other teams. I think there’s a lot of talent throughout the league,” he said.



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