MAPLE HEIGHTS - There's nothing like first-game jitters - ready to get the season underway.
The excitability of Warren G. Harding's boys basketball team might have explained starting the game with a technical for one of its players dunking during warm-ups.
Anthony Schmook promptly drained both charity tosses and buried a 3 as Maple Heights took an early 10-point lead.
It didn't faze the Raiders as they rallied and won their opener Saturday at the Wylie Athletic Center on the campus of Maple Heights High School, 72-61.
"That technical was kind of a weird thing," WGH coach Andy Vlajkovich said. "That happens. We create a lot of adversity in practice. When we create that adversity, we intentionally create that adversity so that we're prepared to handle it."
Harding (1-0, 1-0 Lake Erie League) outscored the Mustangs (1-1, 0-1) 19-6 the rest of the first quarter.
The Raiders were a solid-shooting team the rest of the half, taking a 40-29 lead into halftime and draining 59 percent from the floor (13 of 22).
Vlajkovich said he was happy with the team's ball distribution, leading to the offensive prowess. WGH had 15 assists.
"All year we're talking about three things: chemistry, consistency and concentration," he said. "Their chemistry in the preseason has been really good. That makes me happy because you can correct a lot of other things."
The biggest beneficiary of the Raiders' offense was Anthony Bell, who scored a game-high 30 points and was 10 of 11 from the foul line. Shondell Jackson put in 12 points, while Tommy Perry added 10.
"There's no question Anthony can score the basketball," Vlajkovich said of Bell's performance. "The thing I'm most proud of about Anthony is he's playing in the flow of what we do. I give him the reign to score. He's pretty responsible with that. He's gotten a lot better with that over the last year. He knows he's a good player. He knows when he needs to pick his battles and when he needs to take over and when he needs to be a good teammate."
Defensively, WGH had its opportunities to shut down the Mustangs. The Raiders forced 13 first-half turnovers and 20 in the game. However, Vlajkovich said his team needs to pay attention to more details moving forward. Schmook, who had five 3-pointers, led Maple Heights with 19 points. Andre Wilson had 11 points, while Kierre Hawkins added 10.
"Our defensive effort is really good, but our defensive concentration is really bad," Vlajkovich said. "Our scouting report on defense wasn't really good. Schmook is a good player. We talked about how to guard those guys. At the end of the day, we did it enough to kind of wear them down."
Harding shot 2 of 13 in the third quarter as the Mustangs cut the Raiders lead to one, 46-45, witn 1:33 left.
Maple Heights closed the gap to 54-52 in the fourth quarter with 5:25 remaining, but the Raiders pulled away down the stretch.
And, in the waning seconds, Bell and Wilson received double technicals. Bell fouled out.
In all, details are important to Harding - especially going forward in the LEL.
"The league is really good," Vlajkovich said. "The league is really athletic, really talented. Every night is a dogfight. Every night is a battle. That's why there's the concentration part of it. If you lose concentration for 3 minutes, you saw tonight, they hop right back in it.
"Every team is like that. What we take away is we need to concentrate batter. We've got to get better at our fine points on defense."
Wednesday, Maple Heights travels to West Geauga. Friday, Harding hosts another LEL opponent in Euclid.