Carnifax powers Howland past Niles

HOWLAND – Tommy Carnifax heard the chants from the Niles students, especially the one that went “50-20.”

The sophomore couldn’t contain his emotions any more, remembering how the Red Dragons’ football team ran roughshod on Howland during the fall.

Carnifax couldn’t let Niles have the upper hand any longer. He put his shoulder down and barreled through Red Dragon players in the paint during Friday’s 63-50 victory.

“I was tired of losing,” Carnifax said. “I thought we all brought it tonight, brought some good energy, played some defense pretty good, do what we had to do.”

In their first meeting, Niles beat Howland on Dec. 17, 63-57.

Friday, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Howland post took a handful of Howland’s 16 assists and capitalized with 17 points.

“It felt good, especially after losing to them in football and basketball earlier in the year,” Carnifax said with a slight grin. “Then, finally beating them at home.”

Howland went on a 15-0 run, spanning from the second to the third quarter. The Tigers (4-12, 3-7 All-American Conference, American Division) shot 19 of 35 from the floor through three quarters and 25 of 49 for the game.

Julian Lanier added 15 points, while Evan Steele put in 10 for Howland.

“I thought we attacked the rim really hard,” said Howland coach Bill Bogan, whose team was 7 of 12 from 3-point range. “We went inside-out. When we did take an outside shot, it was inside-out.”

It wasn’t Niles’ night as the Red Dragons (6-8, 3-5) shot 14 of 53 from the floor and 8 of 31 from 3-point range. Marcus Hill led the Red Dragons with 17 points, while Justin Lopes added 10.

“We need to shoot the ball better and we didn’t do that tonight,” Niles coach Ron Price said.

Howland had 20 turnovers and Niles had 13 steals, but the Tigers countered with a well-oiled offense. Reese Bogan, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds, had five assists. But, it was Connor Antinone who got the Howland offense started.

“Ron knows his guys pressure you all over the floor,” Bogan said. “They like to run, shoot 3-pointers. Our guys did a great job. Connor did a great job of handing the ball and getting it into the right spots. A lot of times it’s that first pass that makes that second pass so good. Connor did a great job of making that first pass. The second pass was easy for the good shot.”

Bogan said his team was very selective on their shots on Friday.

“We have to be,” he said. “We have a lot of shot-takers. We need more shot-makers. They did a good job understanding what was a good shot and what wasn’t a good shot.”

Carnifax was waiting for his moment as well.

In the second half, the Howland sophomore elevated toward the rim and wanted an emphatic two-handed dunk. It wasn’t what he envisioned, but it resulted in two points.

“I jumped straight up in the air,” Carnifax said. “I was high enough, but I could reach the rim. I threw it. It went in. Thank God.”

Howland dominated the paint, outrebounding Niles, 39-19. Carnifax led with 11 rebounds.

“He created a lot of problems inside,” Price said.

Carnifax answered some of his questions that have been plaguing him all season.

“The big thing for Tom was gaining confidence in himself,” Bogan said. “He’s a very young sophomore. He’s only 15 years old. We’re hoping he found himself and realized some of the things he can do for us on the basketball floor.”

This was Howland’s first victory since a Jan. 10 home win against Hubbard.

“I felt I wasn’t playing to my potential the whole year, so I let it out tonight,” Carnifax said.

Tonight, Niles hosts Austintown Fitch. Next Friday, Howland is at Struthers.