WARREN - After a series of unfortunate events in Warren forced Warren G. Harding to cancel the last football game of its season, Friday night's home basketball opener against Euclid brought an excited crowd to Warren G. Harding High School.
Unfortunately for the crowd in attendance, a game that was close throughout the night concluded with a string of clutch rebounds and sound free-throw shooting by Euclid to seal a 60-53 road victory for the Panthers.
Harding is now 1-1 on the season.
Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
Warren G. Harding’s Shakem Johnson, middle, tries to take a shot between Euclid’s Devin West, left, and Rayshawn Glover, right.
The game couldn't have started any better for Harding senior Anthony Bell as he scored the Raiders' first 15 points. Not only did Euclid survive the early storm by Bell, but it held a 23-21 lead at intermission. Euclid coach Gary Hicks applauded the efforts by both teams in the first half.
"(Anthony) Bell is a heck of an athlete," Hicks said. "He caused us some problems early on. Our guys battled with them, and at halftime, I told them to settle down, take advantage of our height and athleticism, and trust our system."
The contest stayed close throughout the third quarter as the Lake Erie League foes fought hard on both ends of the floor. Sophomore Shakem Johnson was a force on the boards for the Raiders as he tied Bell with a team high of 10 rebounds, which created several second-chance scoring opportunities for Harding.
At the end of the day, Euclid's front court combo of Tyler Herron and Jamil Clark not only hauled in some big rebounds of their own, but both hit a pair of clutch free throws that kept a potential comeback by Harding just out of reach.
"Tyler Herron stepped up, settled in, and grabbed some big boards for us late in the game, and Anthony Coleman followed up with some huge plays of his own," Hicks said. "It was just a tough game, but our kids earned this victory the hard way and I'm very proud of them."
While Harding coach Andrew Vlajkovich was pleased with his team's effort, he was haunted by their lack of execution late in the game.
"It was a one-score game with 3 minutes left, but we missed some close shots that set up their fast break," Vlajkovich said. "At the end of the day, you can't go 12 of 22 from the free-throw line and expect to win a close game.
"We have to get better with that, but our kids played their butts off. I have to make some adjustments, but if we continue to play hard like we did tonight, we'll get much better as the season progresses."
Euclid's Anthony Coleman led a balanced Euclid scoring attack with 13 points while Devin West added 11. Bell finished the night with 26 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and one block for the Raiders.