POLAND - Maybe it was a good thing that the Warren G. Harding Raiders played less than 24 hours after losing to Euclid.
Given the short amount of time the Raiders had before loading the bus for the trip Saturday evening, no one was able to dwell on what went wrong the night before. It led to a more polished showing as the Raiders held off the Sharon (Pa.) Tigers, 78-71, in the United Way Holiday Basketball Classic at Poland Seminary High School.
"Sometimes on those nights you have to save it for Monday," Raiders coach Andy Vlajkovich said of the 76-68 loss to Euclid. "You have to put Friday night behind you and reload and refocus and kind of get it back.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Warren G. Harding’s Anthony Bell drives to the hoop as Sharon’s Jamaal Waller defends during Saturday’s Holiday Basketball Classic at Poland High School. The Raiders bounced back from their first loss of the season Friday at Euclid with Saturday’s 78-71 victory.
"I didn't want to dwell on it. I didn't want to be negative with them. I wanted to stay as positive as possible. I thought they responded. Those guys want to win. To be honest, I didn't need to say some Knute Rockne speech."
The Raiders (3-1) led most of the game and never seemed to be in serious trouble, but there were some moments when Vlajkovich showed concern. It seemed as if Harding had most of its turnovers in the fourth quarter, when the Tigers trimmed a 12-point deficit to five on two occasions.
Another problem was shaky defensive play on Khalil Hopson and Darrell Stovall. Hopson finished with a game-high 27 points, including 13 in the second quarter. Stovall had 20 points, with 12 coming in the fourth period.
"We didn't play great by any stretch," Vlajkovich said. "Our defense has to get a lot better. We have to spend a lot of time on it at practice this week.
"We haven't been a bad turnover team all year and then all of a sudden in the fourth quarter we started throwing it all over the gym. Most of that is physical fatigue leading to some mental fatigue."
Balance was important on the offensive end for the Raiders. Eight players scored, led by Osha Jackson with 21 points. Anthony Bell came off the bench to score 18, including 11 in the second period, and Mik'quan Dorsey had 15.
"We just wanted to stay focused," Bell said. "Play hard and stay focused."
The Raiders had a 16-13 lead at the end of one quarter, but the Tigers quickly took an 18-16 lead on a three-point shot by Mark Henry and a fielder by Hopson. Harding went on to lead at halftime, 38-34, as Bell picked up the scoring pace.
The Raiders benefited from accurate shooting at the foul line, making 21-of-25. They were 8-of-9 in the third period in taking a 56-49 lead into the final period. Harding was 8-of-8 at the line in the fourth quarter, including a 6-of-6 effort by Dorsey.
Vlajkovich liked what he saw of point guard King Garner, who scored just four points but was again a force off the boards with seven rebounds.
"He's growing up in front of everybody's eyes," Vlajkovich said. "He gets better every day, and his attitude is great. We don't have a star. We just have some guys. Some nights this guy is going to get 19 and some nights that guy is going to get 20. That's how the game is supposed to be played."
The Raiders return to action Tuesday when they host East Cleveland Shaw in a Lake Erie League game.