Howland’s Murray sets record in victory

HOWLAND – The cut above Arbie Murray’s left eye wasn’t a pretty sight, which didn’t matter much to him after the kind of night he enjoyed Friday.

What was pretty was Murray’s record-setting, 3-point performance for the Howland Tigers in their 84-50 win over the Boardman Spartans. Murray set the school record for 3s in a game with nine, including six in the fourth quarter to finish with 31 points.

Murray’s dazzling performance mirrored an outstanding shooting effort by the Tigers, who made 15 3-point shots. John-Mark Weisman made four, and Evan Steele added two.

Murray broke the record of seven set by Cody Chappell in 2004. His pinpoint shooting was a continuation of a strong outing on the practice floor a day earlier.

“I felt amazing,” Murray said. “I was shooting good yesterday. It carried on.”

Murray’s shooting turned into a rallying point for the Tigers, who were in control after opening a 20-8 lead through one quarter. Tigers coach Bill Bogan left Murray in the game until the end to give him a chance at breaking the record. Murray’s teammates kept feeding him the ball in the final minute, and the student section stood in anxious anticipation of every shot.

“They told me that I had seven, so I was trying to get the ball in,” Murray said. “I was just feeling it.”

It was an impressive way to end the regular season for the Tigers, who will take a 10-12 record into a first-round Division I district game against Austintown Fitch Tuesday in Alliance. The game was played at a schoolyard pace, which was fine with the Tigers.

Weisman, who finished with 21 points, had the hot hand early, making three 3-pointers in scoring 11 first-quarter points. Steele made his two 3-point shots in the second period as the Tigers took a 33-23 halftime advantage.

Murray was actually fairly quiet in the first half, but that changed in the second half. He made two from beyond the arc in scoring eight points in the third period, and then came his explosive fourth quarter.

“It’s unusual for a kid to get that hot,” Bogan said. “I think you saw the camaraderie and joy that we have as a team. Everybody from one through 11 was rooting for him and trying to find ways to get him the ball to do that. Arbie puts a lot of work into his shooting.”

The performance of senior Brenden Cope shouldn’t be lost in Murray’s play. Cope, who’s dealt with an ankle injury this season, scored 10 points in the third period to propel Howland to a 57-37 lead. He finished with 14 points.

The Tigers have made noticeable strides since opening the season at 0-5 and 1-7. Their 9-5 record since then should be a confidence builder heading into the district.

“Brenden was hurt early in the year,” Bogan said. “He tried to come back, probably a little too early. Once he’s gotten healthy we’ve played good basketball.”

As much as Bogan enjoyed watching the 3-point barrage, he’d probably take an upgrade on the defensive end in exchange for a few of those bombs.

“We’re not as tough-minded defensively as I’d like us to be,” Bogan said. “A lot of that is our youth. We don’t understand the game quite enough for rotations to do the things we’d like to do, but we’re getting there.”

The Spartans (3-19) were led in scoring by Brian Fryba with nine points.