Harding gets Moore in 4th quarter
HOWLAND — There was an interesting conversation between Warren G. Harding coach Andy Vlajkovich and forward Delmar Moore prior to the fourth quarter of their game against Howland.
Vlajkovich wasn’t exactly thrilled with Moore’s approach to the game. Moore felt otherwise.
“Delmar and I had a disagreement on his effort level,” said Vlajkovich, smiling as he explained the exchange, “a very strong disagreement over the first three quarters. And Delmar did Delmar things after I voiced my displeasure.”
Those things were the main reason Harding held on to edge the Tigers, 45-43, in a crucial All-American Conference Red Tier battle.
Moore scored 10 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked seven shots. It appeared he may have either blocked or altered the final shot of the game.
With the Raiders (11-6, 9-2) leading by two in the final seconds, Howland standout Connor Tamarkin drove down the floor with a chance to tie or win the game. The 5-foot-11 guard drove to the basket against the 6-6 Moore, and his lay-up attempt looked to be knocked off the backboard by Moore. A tip-in attempt by Nathan Barrett also missed as time expired.
“I knew I had to step up in the fourth quarter for us to win,” said Moore, who also scored six of Harding’s 10 points in the final quarter to rally the Raiders from a two-point deficit to start the fourth. “My coach also told me, ‘If I get you the ball in there, you’ve got to slow down and make your shots.’ “
He did just that, and the Raiders needed every one of them.
The victory means Harding earns at least a share of the conference title for a fourth-straight year.
If the Raiders beat Boardman on Feb. 20, they’re outright champions. The loss also pushes Howland (12-5, 7-3) one game back of Harding in the AAC race.
The Tigers looked like they were taking control in the third quarter as their lead increased to 35-28 with 4:04 left in the quarter. However, Howland scored just two more points over the next quarter and a half. The Raiders didn’t exactly light it up either, but with a swarming defense and a few tough baskets by Moore in the paint, they were able to pull ahead.
“He’s a great kid, but he does waver in and out of concentration at times,” Vlajkovich said of Moore. “When he’s locked and loaded, look out, but sometimes he coasts a little bit, and I just had to remind him of that, politely.”
Harding led, 43-37, with less than two minutes remaining, and the Tigers finally responded, scoring their first field goal of the fourth quarter with 1:33 left in the game. The Raiders made a couple free throws to go up 45-39, with less than a minute to go, but Howland again answered, this time with a pair of free throws with just 10 seconds on the clock to pull within four. The Raiders then turned the ball over on an inbounds pass, and Tamarkin quickly scored to make it 45-43.
When Dom McGhee, who led Harding with 14 points, missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity with 6.5 seconds left, the ball caromed to Tamarkin, who dribbled down the court and took Moore to the hoop for the final series of events.
“We were down six with what, 30 seconds to go?,” Howland coach Dan Bubon said. “What a great comeback. We’re coming down with a chance to win or tie. I was honestly hoping Connor might pull up for a 3 or hit someone in the corner for a 3 to try to win it, but when he has a lane all the way to the basket like that, that’s the correct play. So many times this year he’s done that and gotten fouled in the process. He’s won two or three games for us on shots like that in the last 10 seconds.”
It wasn’t to be Tuesday.
The league title isn’t exactly a surprise for Harding, but it’s an impressive feat for a team that had to replace all five starters from last year. The Raiders also had just two returning lettermen, and Moore, who is from Warren but moved to South Carolina for a time last year, just joined the team after being forced to sit out the first 11 games due to OHSAA transfer rules.
Vlajkovich said this team has been as coachable and focused on defense as any he has coached. Their intangibles are hard to measure as well.
“Everyone wants to put a premium on talent,” Vlajkovich said. “And sometimes you put a premium on character, and that locker room has got a lot of character.”