Payback, plus a comeback
WGH gets even with East, welcomes back 6-6 Moore
“We live in an incredibly reactionary society,” WGH coach Andy Vlajkovich said. “A month and a half ago, we were the joke of the town. I told the guys we got drilled.”
This team didn’t feel sorry for itself. Nobody else would. This Raiders team went back to the gym, honed their skills and just worked harder.
That last thing Harding wanted Friday was a repeat performance of that game in which East celebrated as if it was heading to the state Final Four.
Not Friday. Not even close, as WGH rolled to a 70-35 victory.
Delmar Moore’s force was strong. No Jedi mind tricks, just a 6-foot-6 senior exuding his natural abilities with seven of his 16 points and five of his 17 rebounds in the first quarter, not to mention two of his five blocked shots as well.
Harding limited the Golden Bears to five points after the first 8 minutes and by 12. East (4-8, 2-6 All-American Conference, Red Tier) couldn’t stop the Raiders’ momentum. East dropped its seventh-straight game since that mid-December victory.
Golden Bears coach Dennis Simmons said his team, which was enthusiastic throughout the first meeting, couldn’t come close to duplicating it this time around.
Simmons said Moore had plenty to do with that this time. The senior, who mostly grew up in Warren and played for Harding up to his sophomore year, briefly went to South Carolina for family issues during his junior year but returned for his senior season. The Ohio High School Athletic Association saw him as transfer, forcing him to sit out half the season. Friday was his first game back.
“Me being in the game didn’t change anything,” Moore said. “We just went and played basketball the right way.”
Not even a buzzer-beating 3 to end the half by Keshonn Lowry, who had a team-high seven points, could muster enough momentum to lift the Golden Bears, who trailed 31-16 at the break.
“If you can’t weather the storm, you’re screwed,” Simmons said. “That’s the reality. We never weathered the storm.”
Moore thundered through the East middle all night, showing glimpses of a former Harding standout.
“I don’t think Delmar always brings the motor that I like him to bring,” Vlajkovich said. “He’s got a little Shakem Johnson in his game.”
It wasn’t just Moore, but a collective group who put up 13 assists and outrebounded the Golden Bears 44 to 31.
D’Muntize Owens had 15 points and six rebounds, while Trivell Trimble added 12 for the Raiders. Terrion Jackson and Tyre Marlowe, two of WGH’s other posts, each had eight rebounds.
“I thought it was the most balanced game of the year,” Vlajkovich said. “I thought we had contributions from everybody, right on down the line.”
Harding (7-5, 6-1) didn’t let up in the third quarter. It came out on an 11-2 run with three of Chris Hughes’ six assists on a couple of 3s. It was a big win as they prepare to host Canfield tonight in another AAC Red Tier battle.
For the rest of the way heading into the postseason, the Raiders have to play with better rhythm and flow, Vlajkovich said. He likes how his team guarded all year, and Friday was no different.
Harding shot 30 of 65 from the floor and 8 of 23 from 3, while East was 13 of 35 from the floor and 1 of 8 from 3.
“I thought we forced them into a lot of tough shots, and that has to continue,” Vlajkovich said. “I just want to see us be a little more fluid offensively. We spin our wheels at times.
“That can’t happen if you want to beat good teams.”
For Harding, that means keep playing up-tempo basketball.
“It takes more discipline to be a fast-break team than to be a half-court team,” Vlajkovich said. “When you’re tired and guarding, you have to man up and you’ve got to run.”
He said his team was locked in for this rematch, showing how mental this game can be. East, which plays at Ursuline tonight, had the momentum the first meeting, while WGH had it Friday.
“We’re not going to get down when we get beat and we’re not going to celebrate when we win big,” Vlajkovich said. “We’re going to get up and go to work.”
But first thing was first, putting the 72-43 loss at East in the distant past.
“We just had to get payback,” Moore said. “That’s not us. That’s not how we play Raider ball. We just knew we had to come out and get a win.”