Cleveland Heights one-ups Harding

WARREN – Marcus Bagley saw the opening and drove baseline in the final seconds.

The only thing standing between the 5-foot-11 Cleveland Heights junior guard was Warren G. Harding’s Shondell Jackson, who couldn’t get into position in time and was called for a blocking foul with 3.6 seconds left.

Bagley, who had a team-high 19 points, made the first foul shot, giving the Tigers a 61-60 lead and eventually the final score.

“That’s just Marcus,” Cleveland Heights coach Andy Suttell said of Bagley, who had nine points in the fourth. “He’s that kind of athlete. He can, at times, do things that don’t look very good and think he’s not playing well. The bottom line is you go with the kid because the kid is just a gamer in anything he does.

“He wasn’t shooting free throws well (1 of 6), but I knew he was going to make at least one of those because it’s Marcus. He’s just a gamer.”

After Harding called time out, Bagley missed the second free throw.

Neither team had a time out remaining and O’sha Jackson, who already had a game-high 20 points, grabbed the rebound and drove up court.

He heaved a 23-foot jumper from the left side. It hit the backboard, rim and eventually fell to the floor as Harding lost its third straight game at Warren G. Harding gymnasium.

“These kind of games don’t come down to that play,” WGH coach Andy Vlajkovich said. “The little missed box outs. The sloppy turnovers. The little not being at the right spot at the right time kind of thing. That’s what that game comes down to.

“He’ll feel bad for himself for missing that, but that game didn’t come down to that shot. It came down to a bunch of things by all of us.”

Harding tied the game at 60 with 47.9 seconds left on a pair of free throws by Mik’Quan Dorsey, who had 14 points.

Free-throw shooting wasn’t Cleveland Heights’ specialty Friday. The Tigers (7-3, 6-1 Lake Erie League) shot 3 of 10 from the line heading into the fourth quarter, but saved themselves by shooting 4 of 7 from the stripe.

“It’s going to get us at some point,” Suttell said. “I told them in the locker room that they showed some character. I’m not sure we deserved to win, but we made some execution plays down the stretch.”

Gregory Jackson, who had 11 points for Harding (5-5, 2-5), tied the game at 58 as he drove the lane and crashed to the floor with 1:14 left. No foul was called with the flurry of contact on Jackson.

Then, Bagley’s putback with 1:03 remaining put Cleveland Heights up 60-58. The Tigers had six offensive boards for scores, with Bagley getting three of them. Cleveland Heights, which had a 14-3 rebounding edge after the first quarter, hit the glass for 38 boards to Harding’s 26.

“We felt at the half we missed some easy shots inside,” Suttell said. “We had some turnovers on some three-on-ones early when it was relaxed and we scored. We felt we should’ve been up a little bit more at the half.

“Give Harding a whole lot of credit a how hard they played.”

It was O’sha Jackson, who had 10 points in the third quarter, giving the Raiders their first lead of the game with a three-point play with 23.2 seconds left in the third quarter, 44-43.

“When you have patience, it’s going to be a different guy who is able to attack,” Vlajkovich said. “It happened to be O’sha. He was making good decisions. He was going to the rim. He wasn’t settling for jumpers.

“He was attacking the basket. The kid is a heckuva an athlete. It was the result of us spreading it out and us going to the four corners. If our guys buy into that patience, we’ll get to the rim any time we want.”

Cleveland Heights, who had to resort to a smaller lineup, couldn’t stop Harding’s second-half penetration to the basket.

“All night, we had a tough time matching up with them,” Suttell said. “They did a great job of spacing us out, knowing we play hard man, and attacking those gaps.”

Making those adjustments after halftime made the first-year Harding coach smile.

“I couldn’t be prouder of my guys,” Vlajkovich said. “I know the moral victories are over and the youth and inexperience. We’re 10 games in. I thought they did everything we asked them to do, slow the pace of the game down a little bit.

“I think we were fresher in the second half because it wasn’t such a racetrack. The first half was played at Heights’ tempo.”

Tonight, Harding travels to play Canton McKinley at the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse.