Harding defense shuts down Massillon
WARREN — In a game without much offense but with a lot of defense, Warren G. Harding defeated Massillon, 39-33. Harding has now won four straight games.
“This is the best defensive team that I’ve had in six years. Unfortunately, its the worst offensive team I’ve had here. This group has bought into the defensive end of the floor all year,” Harding coach Andy Vlajkovich said about his team’s effort. “I give our guys a lot of credit because we weren’t very good offensively tonight and we continued to guard.”
Warren G. Harding (12-6) came out strong as Delmar Moore got the Raiders up 5-0 at the start, but the scoring attack ended quickly as both teams settled in defensively.
Harding led 14-11 at the end of the first quarter as Massillon (10-9) found its way.
In the second quarter, Massillon began to play some fantastic defense of its own as the Tigers gave up just five points in the quarter.
Massillon led 22-19 at halftime as Dyson Berry had 12 first-half points. He finished with a game-high 20 points.
“The same thing has happened all year. We score 22 points in the half, which is not great and then you have six minutes left in the fourth quarter and we have 25. We scored three points in about 10 minutes,” Massillon coach Michael Cruz said. “We didn’t make one three tonight. We aren’t a 3-point shooting team and it’s not who we are. In order to beat good teams, you have to hit a couple.”
That frustration was because of Harding’s great defense and the inability to get good looks to go down.
In the third quarter, Harding reversed the script from the second quarter as the Raiders gave up just three points to the Tigers. The Raiders led 29-25 after three quarters.
“We know that when we play against a Division I opponent, we need to guard. I was proud of our guys for toughing that one out,” Vlajkovich said. “You have to figure out how to win on bad days. It takes a mature group to guard when you are not playing your best offensively.”
In the fourth, Harding kept its lead at 33-25, but allowed the Tigers to get within one on a 7-0 run. Harding stayed in front, including two clutch free throws by Terrion Jackson, to give the Raiders a six-point lead which was the final.
“I think every coach is trying to find an identity. We have been hanging our hat on guarding people. In March, it is about guarding in the half-court. We are kind of a chameleon team. I’m not sure we have an identity on offense and I’m not sure we will get one. I say that with all love to my guys,” Vlajkovich said.
Harding now gets Canton McKinley at home on Tuesday.