WGH bounces back from loss, beats Niles

NILES – If you hadn’t known better, you would have thought that time had been turned back two years and Jesse Hardin was making 3-point shots look like short jumpers for the Warren G. Harding Raiders.

In reality, the scene was Saturday at War Memorial Gymnasium and the barrage of 3-point shots came from several Raiders in a 74-47 win over the Niles McKinley Red Dragons. Shondell Jackson, Jarelle Johnson and Gabe Simpson each made three 3-pointers, and Kahamaree Bush added one as the Raiders made 10-of-21 shots from beyond the arc.

Harding has enough speed and quickness to give opponents fits. When you add the element of pinpoint outside shooting, there wasn’t much the Dragons could do to prevent the rout.

“We were 0-for-10 (on 3-point shots) last night (in a 40-36 loss to Maple Heights), so 10-of-21 tonight; I’m happy with that,” Raiders coach Andy Vlajkovich said. “They were good 3s. I didn’t think we took many one-pass, jack-up 3s. They came after the ball hit the high post or short corner. Guys are buying in a little bit.”

The Raiders improved their record to 7-5. The Dragons, who have faced a demanding stretch of games against Canfield, Poland, LaBrae and Harding, are 5-7.

Dragons coach Ron Price knew he had his hands full against the Raiders. When he started to see the 3s pour in, he had a pretty good idea it was going to be a long night.

“They come out and hit 10 3s,” Price said. “That makes them pretty good because they’re going to rebound the ball well and cause problems defensively. When they hit 10 3s, that puts them from the 50s to the 70s instead of being around 60, where we can hang in there.”

The game was a makeup for a postponed contest that was scheduled as part of the Hope Classic Showcase, which raises money for chronically and terminally ill children. Jackson, who scored 22 points, was named the most valuable player.

“He’s a really talented kid, and that doesn’t surprise me one bit,” Vlajkovich said. “He had 29 against Shaw and 25 against Cleveland Heights. I just need Shondell to be consistent. If you’ve watched Shondell play, you’re not surprised by that at all. It’s just a matter of doing that every night.”

Both teams were coming off losses from the night before – the Dragons lost to Poland, 72-44. Vlajkovich liked the idea of playing the night after a defeat.

“Some people don’t like these Friday-Saturdays, but if you’re a coach, sometimes the best way to get over something is get right back at it,” Vlajkovich said. “That was like our fifth back-to-back, so we’re kind of getting used to it.”

Jackson had the hot hand early, making three 3-point shots in a 13-point first quarter in which the Raiders took a 17-10 lead. The Dragons put together an impressive second quarter to cut Harding’s lead to 31-27 at halftime.

Niles could do very little right in the third quarter. Ten turnovers fueled a surge by the Raiders that saw them extend the lead to 51-33 entering the fourth quarter.

Johnson finished with 13 points. Simpson had 12 and Shakem Johnson had 10 points and shared rebounding honors at nine with teammate King Garner.

Cameron Kane and James Tate both scored 10 points for the Dragons.

“We didn’t have enough shot attempts in the third quarter,” Price said. “We haven’t been turning over the ball. We usually cause about 18 and average 10. That’s unusual for us. Give them all the credit. They played a nice game.”

Harding is at East Tuesday. Niles hosts Twinsburg on Tuesday.