CEDAR FALLS - Turning down the homestretch of his competitive basketball career, Cedar Falls senior James Harrington is all smiles these days.
Prior to signing a national letter of intent to run track at the University of Alabama on Wednesday, Harrington helped guide the top-scoring offense in Class 4A to a 64-49 win over Cedar Rapids Jefferson Tuesday at Cedar Falls High School.
The two teams will be awarded the top two seeds in substate No. 3, meaning any rematch will be for a berth in the state tournament.
Harrington scored 14 of his game-high 19 points in the first half, while senior classmates Caleb Konieczny and Tony Johnson added 14 and 13, respectively. No. 4-rated Cedar Falls (13-2, 8-2) won its 10th consecutive game by converting 23 of 43 (53.5 percent) shots from the field.
"We have a lot of unselfish players on our team, and I feel like we move the ball pretty good," Harrington said, addressing his team's offense that entered the night averaging 71.1 points a game. "We do have a lot of players that like to score and we're just out here having fun. We're all friends."
Tuesday night, Harrington found himself matched up against Jefferson standout Taylor Olson, whom he has competed against since childhood. Olson scored 10 of his team's first 21 points while the J-Hawks built a slim three-point lead early in the second quarter.
But Olson picked up a third foul on a Konieczny 3-point attempt from the corner with 3:40 remaining and was benched for the remainder of first half.
Konieczny hit all three of his free throw attempts and Cedar Falls closed the half on a 13-2 run to build a 33-25 cushion that Jefferson (11-5, 7-4) was unable to overcome.
The J-Hawks got no closer than six in the second half as Olson missed six consecutive field goal attempts and finished with 12 points. Alec Saunders led Jefferson with 15 points, knocking down five of his team's six second half field goals. But Konieczny drew a charge to hand him his fourth foul before he fouled out with 6 minutes, 56 seconds remaining.
"I think it's tough even with the two guys in the game," Jefferson Coach Stu Ordman said, addressing the fouls that benched Olson and Saunders. "Cedar Falls is a very good team. ... (Cedar Falls) has some size, some quickness and some length they can bring off that bench. They're a formidable opponent."
After a stretch of four games in eight days, Cedar Falls coach Tom Bardal plans to give his team some time to regroup.
"I was happy with our effort, but I think we're a little tired," Bardal said. "You could see it in our legs so we're going to have to take tomorrow off.
"I thought we were maybe a half step slow tonight, but we found a way to win. That's what these kids have done for me all season long is find ways to win and hang in there. I just appreciate their effort all the time."
Bardal said he plans to be there to support Harrington on signing day Wednesday morning. The standout's signature will end what has been a tough decision-making process for one of the most sought after multi-sport recruits in school history.
"(Wednesday) is going to be a real special day. I'm just real happy for him and happy for their family," Bardal said. "There's no question in my mind that he could play college basketball. That's why he had Division I offers. Will I miss seeing him play? Absolutely, I'll miss that, but James is an athlete with multiple Division I offers in three different sports.
He picks track and I'm great with that. He's happy and that's all that matters to me."
As he's enjoying the final chapter of his prep basketball career, Harrington is also excited about what the future holds.
"I can't wait to get down there and start my college track career," Harrington said.
JEFFERSON (49): Alec Saunders 5-8 0-1 15, Creighton Robinson 2-7 0-0 5, Ky Kramer 0-6 0-0 0, Tyler Hemphill 5-7 0-0 12, Taylor Olson 5-13 4-5 14, Justin Underwood 0-0 2-2 2, Austin Goodell 0-4 1-2 1, Jacob Olson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-46 7-10 49.
CEDAR FALLS (64): James Harrington 6-10 6-8 19, Caleb Konieczny 4-9 5-5 14, Kalund Brown 1-5 2-2 4, Isaac Boettger 2-5 2-4 6, Tony Johnson 6-8 0-0 13, Kalehl Brown 4-7 0-0 8, Nick Clark 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-48 15-20 64.
Halftime - Cedar Falls 33, Jefferson 25. 3-point goals - Jefferson 7 (Saunders 4, Hemphill 2, Robinson); Cedar Falls 3 (Harrington, Konieczny, Johnson). Total fouls - Jefferson 20,
Cedar Falls 14. Fouled out - Saunders, Kalehl Brown.
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