Big third quarter lifts Tigers

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Ettinger Nate Leventis of Howland takes the ball to the basket Tuesday night as Trent Johnson of Niles defends.

HOWLAND — Momentum is a tricky dance partner. Just when a basketball team gets its arms around her and begins to sway, she bolts for another, never to return.

Howland managed to wrangle momentum away from Niles McKinley at the perfect moment and never let her return in pulling away for a 71-63 non-conference victory at Howland.

After Ty’rese Williams knocked down a 3-pointer — Niles’ 10th of the first half — at the first-half buzzer, it appeared the Red Dragons had found someone to dance with. The Tigers (3-7) proved otherwise in outscoring the Red Dragons, 20-3, in the third quarter.

“I told them they just had to relax,” Howland coach Dan Bubon said of his halftime speech. “(The 10 3-pointers) were not a normal thing and they couldn’t overreact. I was more upset with the offense. We had a 10-point lead in the second and they took the lead before the half. They didn’t close that gap in two or three possessions. It was five, six or seven because we stopped scoring. That’s what I was upset about.

“They had 10 threes in the first half. How many times have you seen that in a high-school basketball game? They scored 36 points in the half. That means they only got six other points. I was just trying to be calm at the half. It was important we didn’t panic. (The 10 3-pointers) were a once-in-a-lifetime thing. In the second half, we got two or three quick inside baskets and once we had the lead again, we never looked back.”

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Ettinger Da’Jon Motley of Niles spins as he gets off a shot against Nate Leventis of Howland.

Niles (3-8) didn’t find its groove again until it was a tad too late and added just three more triples in the second half.

“We just asked them about it,” Niles coach Ron Price said. “(Howland) came out and seized the moment. We didn’t capitalize on the end of the half. Give Howland credit. They made plays and we lost our energy. It’s been our MO to have one bad quarter. We can’t have that when our margin of error is slim. I’m disappointed in our third quarter. I thought we’d come out ready to go and we just came out lethargic. I’m not sure (what happened). I wish I had the answer.”

Howland was 26 of 48 (54.2 percent) from the field on the night and had five players finish with at least eight points. That might be attributed to the Tigers playing with a bit of a swagger.

“The biggest thing I’ve harped on lately is playing offense with confidence,” Bubon said. “(Not doing that) hurt us early in the year. We’d go four or five minutes without a field goal. We don’t see that happening anymore. We’re playing with confidence. I brought them in and told them how many shots I wanted them to take individually. That kind of made them think it was OK to keep shooting even when they had missed a couple in a row.

“You’ve got to play the game of basketball cocky. I’ve never seen a great team play scared.”

Nate Leventis and Connor Tamarkin each netted 15 points to lead the Tigers, Mike Massucci and Nolan Brill each chipped in with 12 and Kevin Moamis added eight more.

The Red Dragons trailed, 33-24, with 3:31 to play in the second, but used a 12-0 run to close the half with that 36-33 lead. Nine of those points were on 3-pointers while the other three were free throws.

“I think that little stretch that lasted about four minutes there in the second went really well,” Price said. “That’s the way basketball goes. As good as it was during those last four minutes, it was that bad during the third.”

Williams paced Niles with 27 points, Corbin Foy had 18 and Cyler Kane-Johnson added 12 more.