WGH finishes tough week with close loss to St. Ignatius

CLEVELAND – Warren G. Harding coach Andy Vlajkovich learned a lot about his team during the weekend, and for the most part, he liked the knowledge he gained.

The Raiders lost to St. Ignatius, 60-52, on Saturday, a night after beating Warrensville Heights. The teams are considered two of the best in the Cleveland area and arguably the state.

The Raiders (4-2) were tied at 38 with St. Ignatius (5-0) early in the fourth quarter and trailed by four with less than a minute remaining, but a turnover by Harding and solid foul shooting from the Wildcats sealed the non-conference showdown.

“One thing I learned about our team tonight is that we have a tough bunch of kids,” Vlajkovich said. “To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. We hadn’t been in this position before. We played our tails off last night (Friday), and we had to go on the road against one of the better teams in northeast Ohio. I wasn’t sure what to expect. We kept fighting and we really battled. It was a lot like (Friday): We didn’t play great, but we played tough. We hung around, played good basketball and gave ourselves a chance.”

Isiah Barbra was the catalyst in the fourth quarter for St. Ignatius, scoring eight of his 14. He also made 4 of 5 free throws late in the quarter. The Raiders trailed by nine after the first quarter, but outscored the Wildcats, 18-13, in the second quarter and played toe-to-toe with them the rest of the way.

“One thing about this week is that playing two of the best teams on our schedule, we got better,” Vlajkovich said. “We also learned that if we want to be an elite team, we have to learn the intricacies of how you beat really good teams.”

Eric Black led St. Ignatius with 19 points and nine rebounds, and Deven Stover added 14 points. Harding’s Anthony Bell dropped a game-high 22 points, including the Raiders’ only two 3-point field goals. Harding made 2 of 12 from beyond the arc. Shondell Jackson was the only other player in double figures for the Raiders, who shot 17 of 41 from the field (41 percent).

Harding’s schedule won’t get any easier as it hosts Bedford and Ursuline this week.

“That’s the way we like it. Our kids like to play that competition,” Vlajkovich said. “They just make you better for March. Games like tonight help us learn how to compete against that level and how to beat that caliber of a team.”