CANFIELD - With nearly three quarters of the season gone, the Howland Tigers have certainly developed an identity: Take the first quarter off, then start playing basketball.
One look at coach Bill Bogan's face during the opening moments of most games will let anyone know that this personality is not by design. It also has failed more often than not.
But, when it works, it makes for a great show.
Such was the case Friday night.
The Tigers fell behind 17-3 after a quarter and trailed by as many as 17 in the second frame before roaring back to upset Canfield 64-61 in overtime. The win ended the Cardinals' 11-game winning streak and dropped them to 11-2 overall and 6-1 in the All-American Conference, American Division. Howland improved to 5-9 and 4-3.
"We've been playing flat in the first half all year so we knew we could come back," said Howland freshman guard Reece Bogan, the coach's son, who made a steal with three seconds remaining in overtime and then closed out the scoring with two foul shots.
The older Bogan loved the outcome, but not necessarily the path to it.
"Disappointed disappointed in our team," Bill Bogan said when asked how he felt during the atrocious start. "I think we've got the team you saw in the second half. We just have to do it for four quarters."
Although the Jekyll and Hyde act may age him quite a bit, Bogan would love for the entire season to be a mirror image of Friday's game: Terrible start, great finish. Howland dropped seven of its first eight games but is 4-2 since.
Last night the game started with Canfield flexing its muscles as one of the premier squads in the area. The Tigers missed all but one of their 11 field goal attempts in the opening 8 minutes. That bucket did not come until there was just 1:07 remaining in the quarter when Arbie Murray's layup made it 13-3.
But it may have been a sign of things to come. Murray turned out to be the star of the game, leading all players with 27 points and tying teammate Brendan Cope with 10 rebounds.
"Arbie, for the last two years, has been the quiet assassin," Bill Bogan said. "He doesn't say three words. And when he does they are not at an elevated level. He just scores and helps our basketball team in a variety of ways."
Despite seven second-quarter points by Canfield's Cole Pryjma, the Tigers were able to cut the hosts' lead to 27-16 at the half.
The third quarter belonged to Howland and Murray in particular. The 6-foot-3 swingman scored a dozen points in the frame and Howland made 11 of 13 field goals. He went coast to coast to hit a 13-foot jumper at the buzzer to give the Tigers their first lead, 41-40.
"The big lead gave us an illusion that we didn't have to work as hard in the second half," said Canfield coach Todd Muckleroy. "On the positive side, look at the team in here they're hurting. Maybe this will (teach us something)."
The teams went back and forth in the final quarter although the Cards never took the lead. Every time the Tigers scored Canfield answered. Brady Clark had five points in the quarter and led the Cardinals on the night with 17.
Two foul shots by the 6-1 Cope gave Howland a 57-54 lead with 1:26 remaining. It stayed that way until the 13-second mark when Pryjma's 3-pointer tied the score.
The Tigers had a chance to win it in regulation as Bogan found Murray under the basket with eight seconds remaining. But as he went up for the shot Canfield's Andrew Midgley came from behind to block it. Murray got the rebound but was tied up and the ball went back to the Cards.
A basket by Midgley after an offensive rebound opened the scoring in the overtime. Canfield kept the lead after Murray and Jarret Vrabel each made two foul shots. Moments later Bogan found Murray on the right wing with 21 seconds remaining and the man of the night made his first 3-pointer of the game to put the Tigers in front 62-61.
"We're very conscious of what Murray can do," Muckleroy said. "Give credit to him, he hit big shots all night and that 3-pointer when it counted."
After Bogan's aforementioned steal and foul shots, Pryjma threw up an off-balance 20-footer as time expired which did not come close. The 6-1 Bogan is one of three freshmen on the regular varsity rotation for the Tigers, an experience which his father called "immeasurable".
"I have an older brother so I've always played with older kids," the younger Bogan said. "(The seniors) have shown me a lot of things. They've taught me how not to play like a freshman."
John-Mark Wesiman and Cope each had 10 points for the winners while Bogan finished with seven points and three assists. Pryjma had 15 points and Vrabel 14 for Canfield. Midgley had a solid game in a losing effort, finishing with eight points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals and three blocks.