Howland rallies to beat Champion

CHAMPION – Howland missed its second-leading scorer Tuesday night, 6-foot-2 senior Brendan Cope, who uses his athletic prowess to slash through most defenses.

However, a hip injury kept the prolific forward out of a road game against Champion.

Champion coach Doug Foster knew that as well.

“That’s a good, solid team. I thought without Cope, we might of had a chance,” said Foster, whose team was 3-18 entering the game.

However, a couple 3-pointers by Howland senior guard John-Mark Weisman in the third quarter quelled any thought of a Golden Flashes upset during the Tigers’ 69-57 victory at Champion High School.

“We shoot the ball a lot,” said Howland coach Bill Bogan, whose team improves to 8-13. “We work on it a lot in practice. The kids know I’m not opposed to them shooting the ball. John-Mark has struggled with his jumper the past two weeks, but he looks like he found it tonight. That’s good for us heading into the last week and a half.”

Clay Hall, who paced Champion with a team-high 22 points, hit two free throws to cut the Howland lead to 37-32 early in the third quarter.

The Tigers’ backcourt combination of Reece Bogan and Weisman tag teamed for two quick 3-pointers to push Howland’s lead to 45-32. Weisman had a game-high 25 points, while Reece Bogan added 11.

Then, Arbie Murray’s jumper pushed Howland’s advantage to 47-32. Murray had 18 points.

Champion cut the Tigers’ lead to 47-41 on an Eric Sindledecker 3, but missed the Golden Flashes, who shot 18 of 50 from the floor, missed a couple of lay-ups on the ensuing possessions that proved costly.

“It was a struggle from there,” Foster said.

Howland struggled in the first half as Champion took the lead on Hall’s 3-pointer 5 minutes before halftime as the Golden Flashes (3-19) took a 23-20 lead.

The Tigers, who shot 23 of 45 from the floor, had a 37-30 advantage going into the locker room and Weisman, Murray and Bogan filled in during Cope’s absence.

“When you lose a potential player of the year candidate, other people have to step up,” Bill Bogan said.

As for Champion, it might have stepped into uncharted territory heading into next Tuesday’s Division III sectional semifinal against third-seeded Ursuline at Howland High School.

“It was a Division I team and we’re hanging with them,” Foster said. “If we hit a couple of shots down the stretch, it might be a different outcome.

“I wish they would’ve given this effort every game. We might’ve been a better team.”

The question for Howland is whether Cope plays Friday when the Tigers host Boardman in their regular-season finale. Cope had an ankle injury and was sick earlier this year.

“Hopefully it’s something minor and he can shake it, get over it and get ready against Boardman,” Bogan said.