Harding gets redemption over East

YOUNGSTOWN – Don’t ever question Shondell Jackson’s memory.

As he dissected Youngstown East for 26 points and eight rebounds Tuesday night, there was one thing on the mind of the Warren G. Harding forward.

“I remember how they did us last year,” he said. “They knocked us out of the playoffs.”

The Panthers did just that last March 1, defeating Harding in a sectional final last year. Last night’s game was much different.

The Raiders, who improved to 8-5, used a 27-8 second quarter to break the game open. When it looked like East was making a comeback in the second half, Harding ran off 17 unanswered points to ice the 83-53 victory.

“When we get in that rhythm we’re a pretty good basketball team,” said Harding coach Andy Vlajkovich.

That rhythm came after a back-and-forth, mutually erratic first quarter, which ended with the Raiders in front 17-16. Dalane Brown had six points, three rebounds, two steals and an assist for the Panthers in the quarter. Jackson scored the first seven points of the contest and added nine in the second frame.

While there is no such thing as a perfect quarter, Harding’s second stanza came close to it. The Raiders made 8 of 10 field goals including 4 of 6 from outside the arc. Anthony Bell had 11 points in the period and Harding’s defense limited the Panthers to 2 of 15 from the field.

“We finally found a defense that we could guard them in,” Vlajkovich said of the 1-3-1 zone. “We couldn’t guard them in the first two we started with.”

Jackson left the Xs and Os to his coach, choosing instead to simply the quarter.

“We just played our game, played team ball, shared the basketball,” Jackson said.

Sharing the basketball was a key to the win. The Raiders had 20 assists on the evening, led by King Garner’s six and Jarelle Johnson’s five.

While the Raider defense was a big reason for the Panthers’ woes, Coach Dennis Simmons’ team also contributed. East made just 4 of 12 free throws in the second quarter. For the contest the Panthers were 17 of 32 from the stripe and turned the ball over 21 times.

East (2-9) made a run in the third quarter, cutting the lead to 13 points on three occasions, the final one coming at 52-39 with 42 seconds remaining. It was then that the Raiders began their aforementioned 17-0 run, which ended three minutes into the final stanza with Harding in front 69-39. Jackson had the first six points of the spurt and Jautice McDonald came off the bench to contribute seven points.

Bell, who had missed some time the previous three games, finished with 17 points while Shakem Johnson pulled down 10 rebounds for the winners.

“Anthony makes us go; he’s a big part of what we do,” Vlajkovich said. “The biggest thing with Shondell is his consistency. He has to improve that. If we can get him to be consistent we’re going to be much better. Anyone who has seen him knows he’s a really nice player.”

Harding finished the contest 29 of 55 from the floor compared to just 17 of 55 for the Panthers. Rashawn Boykin led East with 13 points and Brown added 11. Terrell McClain pulled down 10 rebounds in a losing effort.