WINONA, Minn. Olympic High is efficient at finding ways to stay undefeated.
The Trojans, No. 1 in the Sweet 16, rallied in the second half to hold off No. 5 Harding 63-62 Friday in a ME-GA 7 3A/4A game in front of a sellout crowd that included coaches from Villanova and N.C. State.
Olympic (15-0, 4-0) went ahead 63-60 on senior center Josh Smith's three-point play with 1 minute, 16 seconds left, then withstood Harding's final possession after the host Rams pulled to within a point.
"It's a good win," said point guard Sean Anthony, who led the Trojans with 17 points. "Just another conference game. We've got to move on."
Harding (12-3, 1-3) packed the lane to deny Clemson recruit Smith (12 points) clean looks at the basket, but Olympic compensated with Anthony driving to the hoop and Allerik Freeman (14 points) working for mid-range shots.
"When we feed it to Josh, obviously they're going to double-team him, so we try to slash to the basket and he looks to us," Anthony said. "We've got to make shots."
Harding, looking to knock off its second Sweet 16 No. 1 of the season, gave Olympic all it could handle with guard Jarvis Haywood leading all scorers with 26 points and Emmanuel Patton adding 19, but the Rams couldn't seal the victory.
"It was probably one of the best games I've been in the eight years I've been at Harding," Rams coach Walter Aikens said. "With so much riding on the line, it was a great performance from both teams and key players. I'm proud of the way the kids played and I enjoyed the atmosphere."
Harding grabbed a 27-21 halftime lead by challenging Olympic at the basket, usually with point guard Aaron Linton driving to the basket to dish to an open teammate. Patton led the Rams with nine points in the first half, including seven in the first quarter. Olympic struggled with Harding's quickness, especially in the second quarter when the Rams outscored the Trojans 13-7. Anthony paced Olympic with eight points in the half, with six in the first quarter, which ended 14-14. Ultimately, the Trojans managed one final stop to remain unbeaten.
"They're a very good team, so we knew it was going to be real tough and we had to play through it with defense," Anthony said. "Defense wins championships."