WARREN - The fact that the Warren G. Harding Raiders defeated the John F. Kennedy Eagles, 78-47, in a basketball game Friday didn't matter much in the grand scheme of things.
The goal of the Covelli Tipoff Classic at Harding was to raise money for two local charities - the Warren Family Mission and St. Vincent DePaul. The game, which was approved by the Ohio High School Athletic Association because of its charitable nature, took the place of a scrimmage.
"I'm thankful for Harding to do this with us," Eagles coach Shawn Pompelia said. "I think it's a great community event. There are no losers tonight."
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Warren G. Harding’s Tommy Perry drives to the basket as John F. Kennedy’s Dominic Naples defends during Friday’s Covelli Classic, an exhibition game and meet the team nights for both schools, at WGH’s gymnasium.
Pompelia and first-year Harding coach Andy Vlajkovich were able to play a combined 29 players - 15 Raiders and 14 Eagles. The new-look Raiders, who lost the core of a 21-4 team that advanced to a Division I regional final last season, showed off their speed and aggressive defense. The Eagles, who were 8-16 and advanced to a Division IV district final last season, used the experience as another opportunity to improve as the regular-season opener Friday at Bristol nears.
The first thing fans will notice about the Raiders is their lack of height compared to last season, when former coach Steve Arnold had two 6-foot-8 starters - Rashid Gaston and Shaheed Davis.
"We're going to push it," Vlajkovich said. "I thought we pushed it pretty well tonight. We like that we came and tried to treat it like a real game."
Each of the 15 players Vlajkovich played scored. Mik'Quan Dorsey led the way with 13 points. Anthony Bell had 12, and Tommy Perry made three 3-point shots in finishing with 11 points.
"My thing for doing this - obviously the charity part of it was important - but also when you have this young of a team, to put the uniforms on in a game atmosphere and get out some of those cobwebs, hopefully things go a lot smoother when you get some of those nerves worked out," Vlajkovich said. "We had four scrimmages already. Scrimmages are great, but a game atmosphere brings a little different emotion level, and I tried to prep our kids for that a little bit."
There's no question that senior guard Dominic Naples will be a key part of the equation for the Eagles. Naples had nine field goals and added two free throws to score a game-high 20 points.
"They pressed us and we turned the ball over," Pompelia said. "We're starting three sophomores. It was a great learning experience for them. We're not taking anything negative from this tonight."
The three sophomores are Preston Caparanis, A.J. Grant and Luke Keck. Willie Stevenson, another sophomore, comes off the bench.
"I thought Willie did a nice job," Pompelia said. "We've been riding him a lot at practice, and he stepped up and did a nice job."
Vlajkovich saw what he needed to see as he prepares the Raiders for their season opener Friday against Ursuline.
"I wanted to play a lot of guys," Vlajkovich said. "It's not about winning those kinds of games. It's about experience. I think it was good for both schools."
Pompelia would like nothing better than to see the Eagles return to the Harding gymnasium for another shot at a district title next March.
"Think about it," Pompelia said. "We're scrimmaging Harding; fans in the stands; game atmosphere. We start the season here. We want to be holding that championship trophy up in the district final. That's our goal."