A Warren winner

New coach gets first WGH victory

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Warren G. Harding’s Dom McGhee, left, protects the basketball from a Youngstown Chaney defender Tuesday night in the Raiders’ gym. Harding posted its first victory under new coach Gabe Bubon.

WARREN — A 13-point halftime lead didn’t do much for Warren G. Harding coach Gabe Bubon.

The first-year Raiders coach was worried after Chaney hit a few shots and cut into what was a 22-point advantage. With a young team returning just two starters from last year, Bubon wasn’t sure how Harding would react to a momentum swing.

“I’m not going to lie to you, I got a little nervous there toward the end of the half,” he said, “but they responded.”

It helped that the Raiders’ two returning starters are really good.

Dom McGhee and D’Muntize Owens combined for 51 points, and Harding dominated upstart Chaney, 79-51, in their home opener Tuesday.

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon D’Muntize Owens dribbles the ball as he sets up Warren G. Harding’s offense Tuesday against Chaney.

McGhee scored 21 of his game-high 29 in the second half to make sure the young Raiders (1-1) bounced back from a 26-point defeat to Brush in the season opener. Owens made sure they had a cushion going into halftime, scoring 16 of his 22 in the first two quarters.

“(The win) was big, especially having a young team,” said McGhee, a 6-foot-1 senior point guard. “I just felt like we needed this. It was a huge win for us. We needed it going into another big game (against Garfield Heights) on Thursday. We need this confidence for our young guys.”

The win helped Bubon’s confidence as well.

The Cowboys (1-1) were coming of a 65-48 win over Austintown Fitch, and while they too were young, they also were athletic and talented, similar to the Raiders (1-1). Being at home made a big difference, Bubon said.

“I think we’re going to be a really good shooting team at home,” he said. “If we can just figure out how to make shots on the road, that’ll help us a lot.

“The fast start definitely helped (tonight) because there was no looking around or finger pointing. It was just, ‘Yeah! Let’s go!’ Thursday, it could be entirely different. When you have a young team, it’s one day at a time.”

The Raiders made 11-of-25 3-pointers, with Owens hitting three in the first quarter as Harding jumped out to a 22-9 lead. They extended that advantage to 35-13 in the second quarter before Chaney finally found its shooting touch.

The Cowboys missed their first seven 3-pointers, several of which were well off the mark, but six different players scored in the second quarter as they moved within 13. They scored the first two points of the second half to move within 11, but that was as close as they got as McGhee took over.

“Dom and (Owens), they’re our veterans,” Bubon said. “We don’t have many, but they’re our veterans. And honestly, part of being young is learning how to finish a game or finish a run. Me and (assistant) coach (Marc Morgan) we just talking, when we get a lead or things go well, we go back to all our bad habits. You kind of get a little bit cool, you lose your intensity, but we get on these guys a lot.

“That’s all we talked about at halftime: Come out with same intensity you started the game with, and they did.”

Chaney is just as young, as the Cowboys started three sophomores and a junior along with senior Marquel Gillespie, who scored a team-high 20 points.

Coach Marlon McGaughy is optimistic about the Cowboys’ future as they return to high school athletics for the first time since 2011.

“They’ve got some really good guards — real physical guards,” said McGaughy of McGhee and Owens. “We have some young kids that don’t really understand the physicality of the game. We’ll be OK. We’ll get a lot better as the season goes on.”

The Raiders are hoping for similar growth. They just hope it’s a short learning curve.

They host Garfield Heights on Thursday, a perennial power in basketball. The Bulldogs defeated Harding in the district semifinal of last year’s postseason. They also beat the Raiders football team in the first round of this year’s Division I playoffs.

“It’s going to be good because we’ve got a couple football players (on the team),” McGhee said. “It’s going to be a real exciting game, and I think everybody should be out there to watch it.”

They’ll get to see if a youthful Raiders team can grow up quicker than expected.