WARREN - For the first time this season, Warren G. Harding coach Andy Vlajkovich cannot fault his players for a loss.
Following the Raiders' 82-73 loss to Warrensville Heights on Friday night, Vlajkovich realized that his team had run into a team that couldn't be stopped. The Tigers shot 61.2 percent for the win to earn the Lake Erie League win.
"I thought (Warrensville Height) played unbelievable," Vlajkovich said. "I didn't think we played terrible. For the most part, I thought our kids gave a heck of an effort. I thought they were just better than us tonight, and I don't know if I can say that all year."
Warrensville Height's hot night from the floor started right from the tip, as the Tigers (9-8, 6-8) went 12 of 13 from the field to drop 26 points on Harding (10-8).
Montell Goodwin gave the Raiders fits in the first quarter, as he dropped 11 of his team-high 15 points in the first eight minutes. The senior guard pulled up for jumpers from everywhere inside the arc and even managed to drained his shots, having a hand in his face most of the time.
Once the Raiders began to have a man trail him up and down the court, Goodwin made them pay by finding open teammates. He recorded five assists in the game.
"I though he had some decent hands on him," Vlajkovich said. "Then, we started trapping Goodwin a little bit, and he found the open guy and he hit (some shots). We were kind of in a darned if we did, darned if we didn't kind of thing."
In the first half, Anthony Bell carried the Raiders and kept them within striking distance.
The junior guard drained three 3-pointers in the first quarter and dropped 17 of his game-high 24 points in the first half. He accounted for just under 50 percent of Harding's offense during the first half.
"(Bell) can do that at times," Vlajkovich said. "Recently, he's really understood when he has to do that, and when he has to play within the flow. Tonight, he kind of put on that "I'll throw you on my back and see how far I can take you' (mentality)."
In the third quarter, Harding didn't need Bell to carry the load, going on a 15-3 run over the final 4 minutes to take its first lead of the game.
All the momentum that the team built up in the third disappeared in the fourth, however, as foul trouble caught up to Harding.
Mik'quan Dorsey and Bell both fouled out, and King Garner played with four fouls for most of the fourth quarter. With a short bench, the Raiders couldn't keep up at the end, with the Tigers going on a 14-4 run over a 3-minute span to retake the lead and seal the win.
"We're not real deep right now because of our personnel situation," Harding coach Andy Vlajkovich said. "We've been good playing fast all year, but one thing about playing fast is you need bodies. We were trying to wear them down, and I think we may have worn ourselves down in the process."
The Raiders are now looking forward to bounce back against Boardman on Tuesday, and O'sha Jackson, who had 21 points against Warrensville Heights, said this is an important game for Harding.
"It's a must win," he said.