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Dragons win emotional game over Howland

HOWLAND — Emotions were high Tuesday night in Howland. After learning of the passing of his grandmother earlier in the day, Niles senior Corbin Foy put on a special performance against the Tigers.

“It was a lot to deal with today,” Foy said. “I was in school. I had to leave school early. I played that game for her. Everything is for her now. She’s looking down on me from above, and that’s all I need.”

It was the WKBN Game of the Week, but the game itself was a one-sided affair with the Red Dragons winning 77-57. However, Foy and Niles all-time leading scorer, teammate Cyler Kane-Johnson, helped make it an exciting contest.

Foy came out on fire. He drilled four from downtown in the first quarter, scoring 14 of the team’s 24 points as Niles (11-10) jumped out to a 24-12 advantage after one.

“I think our kids came out with a little more energy tonight,” Niles coach Doug Foster said. “Corbin’s grandmother passed away earlier. I think the kids had more of a desire to win tonight for him, and his family. He came out smoking. To come in here and beat Howland, I can’t ask for anything else.”

The Tigers (6-15) tried to hang in during the second and third quarters. Senior Joey Vitali’s lay-up at the halftime buzzer got Howland within 15 at 39-24. Then, Nathan Barrett (team-high 22 points and 14 rebounds) began the third by completing an and-one. Vitali (13 points) had back-to-back baskets, and Barrett canned a trey. Barrett’s spin move and hoop cut the lead eight. That was as close as Howland got, as the talented Red Dragons began to pull away. Foy hit a deep 3, and the score was, 55-41, heading to fourth.

Senior Robbie Savin gave Niles a 20-point lead after his lay-in with 3:30 left to play. Then, with the cameras rolling, Kane-Jonson made a strong move inside. Kane-Johnson (29 points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists) is a muscular, tattooed, scoring machine. He imitated a move made famous by LeBron James, and flexed for the audience.

“It was one of the most funnest games I’ve ever played in my life,” Kane-Johnson said. “It was a rivalry game. We all played hard. Howland had a big crowd. The atmosphere was great. This was the last time I’ll ever play them. The last two years, they blew us out. It felt good to get revenge on them one last time. We’re a dangerous team, and we’re going to go on a run in the tournament.”

Fittingly, Foy (27 points) was named the player of the game by the television broadcast team. He did an on-camera interview and was greeted by numerous classmates and friends after the game.

“It’s been an up and down season,” Foy said. “We’ve had a lot of tough losses to very good teams. I think we’re peaking at the right time. I think we’ll play well in the tournament and shock some people.”

The Red Dragons finish the regular season tonight against Jefferson. Niles is the No. 9 seed in the upcoming tournament and opens up against West Branch.

“I’m excited for my kids,” Foster said. “They’ve been battling the last four or five games. We have senior night against Jefferson. If we win that, it’ll be the first winning record in a long time.”

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