EUCLID - An early wake-up call for the Warren G. Harding Raiders basketball team Saturday didn't bother the players.
They might have been tired on the bus ride home, but they were full of energy in turning back the Euclid Panthers, 65-55, in a Lake Erie League game.
The contest was originally scheduled for Friday night but was postponed to a 12:30 varsity start Saturday because of the snow that covered northeast Ohio. A small crowd made its way to the gymnasium for the unusual starting time.
Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Warren G. Harding’s Quenten Jackson, left, and Euclid’s Chuck Bradford go for the ball before it goes out of bounds Saturday at Euclid High School.
"The kids took care of the situation," Harding coach Steve Arnold said. "I told them that every time you step on the court, you have to compete and win basketball games. That's what they did."
The teams could meet for a third time this season. If Euclid defeats Lincoln West Tuesday in a first-round Division I sectional game, it would face Harding Saturday at 1 p.m. in a sectional final at Solon.
The Panthers stayed within striking distance throughout the game, but they weren't able to regain the lead after falling behind, 21-20, on a fielder by Shaheed Davis in the second quarter. The Raiders led 17-15 after one quarter and 31-28 at halftime. Harding took a 49-41 lead into the final period.
"We have to get used to this," Harding senior Tre Brown said of the early starting time. "We're going to have an early game in the tournament, so we wanted to prepare for it."
The Raiders had balanced scoring. Brown and Rashid Gaston shared scoring honors with 19 points each. Davis came off the bench to score 10 points.
Gaston had an eight-point first quarter. Davis scored eight in the second period, and Gaston registered nine points in the third quarter.
No coach will complain about that type of balance.
"That's why this program is built on the team concept and not just the individual," Arnold said. "There were two, three or four guys that hurt them. If you count on one person, you can take that guy out of the game. That's why we've always preached the team concept here."
The Raiders finished the regular season with a 16-4 record and the second seed in the district tournament behind Garfield Heights. There was a rough stretch a few weeks ago when they lost three of four games, but they finished the season strong.
"It's a pretty good record, provided the schedule that we play," Arnold said. "I'm proud of this basketball team. Now we have to get focused and try to make this tournament run."
Before the start of the season Arnold wasn't shy in saying that a goal is to qualify for the state tournament. Before that happens, the Raiders will first have to take care of business at the district.
"You want to put yourself in a position where you're playing for a district championship," Arnold said. "As we talked about at the beginning of the season, our expectations haven't changed."
The Panthers were led in scoring by Martel Mellon, who finished with 21 points. Ron Whalen had 14 points, and Arthur Cook added 12 points.
That wasn't enough firepower to deal with the Raiders, who were determined to end the regular season on a good note.
"We knew we had to play together because coach Arnold wanted this win badly to make a statement going into the tournament that we're coming to play," Brown said.