GIRARD - When the Girard Indians need somebody to step up, coach Craig Hannon calls on Craig Randall to take over the game. Friday's game against Liberty was one of those times, and the sophomore point guard delivered.
Randall poured 35 points on the Leopards in Girard's 64-60 All-American Conference, National Division win.
"He's the guy with the ball in his hands, but he's a natural scorer, too," Hannon said. "He finds ways to put the ball in the hoop, and at times when we're bogged down and things are breaking down, he can find a way to get a bucket that we can't create."
Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Liberty’s Markell Underwood, left, grabs the ball before it goes out of bounds after beating Girard’s Evan Standohar to the ball. Girard won, 64-60.
Randall was hot to start the game, draining two 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the game. Girard (3-3, 2-1) jumped out to a 21-4 lead at the 3:06 mark.
The Indians struggled offensively after that, however, and that's when the sophomore stepped up. Randall scored all 10 of Girard's points in the second quarter to help the Indians take a five-point lead into halftime.
Then, after the Leopards (4-3, 1-1) charged back and took a 52-50 lead halfway through the fourth quarter, Randall picked up his teammates again. He hit three buckets in the final four minutes, including two back-to-back to retake the lead, and a free throw late to ice the game.
"Craig knows when to take over - knows when the moment can be his," Hannon said. "He just needs to learn sometimes to not settle so much for 3's and attack the rim. When he does that, he's almost impossible to guard."
Randall said his teammates' confidence in him bolsters his play.
"It's not that I had the confidence, but I'm lucky enough that my coaches and my teammates have a lot of confidence in me," Randall said. "So, I give them a lot of thanks."
Not everything was rosy for Randall and the Indians, however.
The team struggled shooting free throws in the fourth quarter. After going 13 of 14 in the first three quarters, Girard went 6 of 14 in the final quarter. Randall missed 5 of 6 himself.
"We're a pretty good free throw shooting team," Hannon sad. "I think that for the most part, we got really tired. We need to make our free throws down the stretch."
As for Liberty, the Leopards clawed back thanks to David Hight.
Following a scoreless first quarter, the senior forward gave the Girard defense fits inside, scoring 25 points total in the game. He was a force on the offensive glass, grabbing six offensive boards, and he converted four of them for putback field goals.
"He can be one of the best big guys in our league," Liberty coach Dan Bubon said. "We need to do a better job of getting him the ball, but that comes back to me. I got to get us more on the same page on what we want to do."
With the win, Girard can go into Christmas feeling happy with the .500 start.
"We haven't beaten (Liberty) in couple of years," Randall said. "Beating them and putting us at .500, it made (the win) a lot better - and a lot better Christmas, too."