Howland closes 17-5 season with win

HOWLAND — Now it’s tournament time for the Howland Tigers basketball team.

After finishing off a tremendous turnaround regular season with a 82-69 victory over Lakeside, the Tigers now wait until next Friday to host the winner of Mooney and Girard in a first-round Division II sectional matchup.

Howland, which had a comfortable 10-point halftime lead on Friday, secured a 17-5 overall record — its most regular-season wins since 1991.

Number 17 came a lot like the others.

Senior Samari Dean went back to his days as the Tigers starting quarterback and delivered a perfect pass to junior Nathan Barrett, who laid it in to close out the third and give Howland a 64-41 advantage. Barrett had a game-high 26 points and has been instrumental in the Tigers’ success this season.

“We were 5-3 when we made the decision to insert Nathan into the starting lineup,” Howland coach Dan Bubon said. “We took off after we made the move. He’s young, so we took some time with him. His first start he had 19 rebounds, so we we’re like, ‘OK, he’s ready.’ “

The big forward admitted that he was the beneficiary of Lakeside focusing on another standout player in Conner Tamarkin.

“They knew coming in that Conner is our star player and he was going to get the ball,” Barrett said. “The did their best to double him, and to try to stop him. When that happened, the ball rolled my way, and I just did my part. It’s been a great season. I’ve never had a season like this where guys just jelled together. It really feels like a family. We’re a real team. I think we can win it all. That’s the goal.”

The starters were taken out for the reserves during the fourth quarter, when the players were applauded for their efforts by the home fans for the final time in a regular-season game.

“It’s bittersweet that the regular season is over,” said senior co-captain Kevin Moamis. “Last year we were 8-16. This year 17-5, and it feels great, but we have to keep moving on. Hopefully we have a deep playoff run.”

There’s no reason to doubt a team that’s surprised quite a few people in the Mahoning Valley.

“Obviously it’s sad that it’s coming down to the end,” said fellow senior co-captain Conner Tamarkin. “I believe we exceeded everyone’s expectations after last year. We went 9-3 in league after going 2-10 last year. I believe we’ve had some great accomplishments this year, but we aren’t done here. We have our expectations set to go deep in the tournament.”

Tamarkin is the Tigers’ leading scorer, averaging 17 points per game. The 5-foot-11 guard is Howland’s leader in virtually every category. He averaged nearly three assists and three steals to lead the team. Only the 6-3 Barrett pulled down more rebounds than Tamarkin, 134 to 124, respectively.

The Tigers get solid contributions from seniors Frank Rappach and Jonah Weisman as well.

Overall, Howland averages 60 points per game and gives up 52. They make a living pounding teams on the boards. They outrebound their opponents by 10 per game at 33 to 23.

“It’s nice to be a part of something special,” Bubon said. “You watch other schools and it’s this kid went to this school. This kid came from here. These are all Howland kids. They all came up playing here. I’m only in my second year here. Last year we win eight games playing mostly D-I schools when we’re D-II. These kids put it in their minds that they were going to work hard and get better.

“We didn’t bring in anybody new,” he added. “They won a lot of close games this year. It was a hell of a lot of fun. I hope they go on a good tournament run. Howland’s never won a district championship. Even though they’ve had a lot of good teams throughout the years. This team has a real shot to win a district championship. We’re going to take this ride as long as we can.”