Harding holds court

Defensive pressure continues to spark upstart Raiders

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Warren G. Harding’s D’Muntize Owens (10) guards Cardinal Mooney’s Johnnie Mikos during their game Thursday in Warren. Harding’s Ron Simmons, far right, defends Mooney’s Pete Haas (5) in the background. The Raiders won, 50-37.

WARREN — Andy Vlajkovich said his team emphasizes defense in practices.

Thursday, his Warren G. Harding Raiders boys basketball team protected their home court by keeping Cardinal Mooney at bay, 50-37.

It is by necessity.

“This team, we have to guard,” said Vlajkovich, whose team improved to 4-4. “We don’t have the offensive power night in and night out. We have to hang our hats on guarding and defending.

“That’s not easy to get kids to do. I give this team a ton of credit because they’re willing to do that.”

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Warren G. Harding’s Chris Williams (24) guards John Murphy, left, during the Raiders victory Thursday in Warren.

The Cardinals (1-7), coming off Tuesday’s overtime win against John F. Kennedy, couldn’t replicate their success as they were 14 of 43 from the floor.

Cardinal Mooney missed about a dozen lay-ups. That’s mainly because Harding interior players Terrion Jackson (6 feet, 5 inches) and Tyre Marlowe (6-4) put pressure on the Cardinal players in the post. Jackson had 11 points, while Marlowe added 12. Dom McGhee added 10.

“We work religiously on interior defense, walling up, not fouling, not jumping,” Vlajkovich said. “Wall up and make high school kids make tough shots, hope it’s a low number.”

The Cardinals trailed by two after one quarter, but Harding went on a 9-2 run to begin the second and held off Cardinal Mooney the rest of the way.

Pete Haas’ steal and bucket cut the Raiders lead to 42-36 with 5:34 remaining in the fourth quarter, the closest the Cardinal got. Haas had 14 points.

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Warren G. Harding’s Trivell Trimble (11) guards Cardinal Mooney’s John Murphy during their game Thursday at Warren G. Harding High School. The Raiders won, 50-37.

Cardinal Mooney got what it wanted, keeping Harding to around 50

“When they have length like that, we’re not going to kill them inside,” Cardinal Mooney coach Carey Palermo said. “We’re probably not going to shoot over them.

“When you get to the hoop, you expect to finish a little bit more than we did tonight.”

Jackson’s windmill slam with 10 seconds left put the exclamation mark on Harding’s night, where the Raiders were 14 of 17 from the foul line. The Raiders also had 11 assists.

The long-range shooting suffered.

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Warren G. Harding’s Dom McGhee holds the ball as Cardinal Mooney’s Jordan Stanford during their game Thursday.

“We have to be the only team in the state of Ohio that goes 14 of 17 from the line and 2 for 17 from 3,” Vlajkovich said. “I thought we played OK, but we didn’t make shots.”

Palermo said his team was hindered by Harding’s switches on screens, occasionally trapping the first pass. Some of Cardinal Mooney’s offensive woes lie with itself.

“I knew it wasn’t pretty at times, but I thought we should’ve converted more,” Palermo said.

Cardinal Mooney didn’t attempt a free throw in the first half, but it went 6 of 10 from the stripe in the final 16 minutes.

Harding, which shot 17 of 42 from the floor, took care of things on the defensive end.

“Most high school kids let the defensive intensity slide when the offensive game is not good,” Vlajkovich said. “This group has been pretty mature about that. I’m kind of proud of them for that.”

Wednesday, Harding hosts Kennedy Catholic (Pa.) at 7 p.m. The Raiders varsity girls team hosts Lakeview at 5:30 p.m., to begin a WGH doubleheader.

Saturday, Mooney travels to Valley Christian.