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Getting off the zero

Harding posts first win, beating rival Howland

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Warren G. Harding sophomore Khalil Williams, right, reaches in against Howland senior Jordan Sperling during Friday night’s rivalry matchup.

WARREN — After a tough stretch to start the season, the Warren G. Harding boys basketball team finally busted its slump, beating rival Howland, 62-53, on Friday night to get its first win of the season.

“It feels good,” second-year Raiders coach Keelyn Franklin said about the first victory. “Not only for us as a coaching staff, but for the kids. I noticed they were feeling it also, hearing things in the community, ‘What’s going on with you guys?’ So anytime you can get that zero and turn it into a one, it lifts your spirits a little bit.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but today was a step in the right direction.”

Like any rivalry game, it wasn’t easily won. Howland played scrappy in the paint and made getting solid looks as difficult as possible for the Raiders.

“I thought we gutted it out,” Franklin said. “Howland’s a tough team. They made it tough on us. I thought some of our younger guys really grew up today. Anytime you can start off conference play 1-0, that’s a positive.”

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Raiders point guard Emari Burgess drives to the net, splitting Howland defenders Jordan Sperling, right, and DeRon Burke.

Once Harding (1-4, 1-0) got a rhythm late in the third quarter, shots started falling, and the Raiders were able to keep Howland at bay.

“I think we settled in there a little bit around the middle to the end of the third quarter,” Franklin said. “We got comfortable with what they were doing and what we wanted to do against it. Getting the ball in the post and playing out of that.”

Sophomore Donovan Herron led the Raiders with 15 points Friday and was followed by Tye Pennington with 13. Both players hit three 3-pointers and the team shot a collective 9-of-13 from deep.

For the Tigers, who were led by Anthony Massucci’s 16 points, the game was a tale of missed opportunities, starting from the opening tip.

“The whole flow of the game was the first quarter,” Tigers coach Dan Bubon said. “We could have jumped on them. We had all kinds of chances to jump on them and we didn’t, and that came back to haunt us.

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Harding junior Johnny Graham puts a shot on net while Howland’s Gabe Badea moves in to try and defend. Graham scored eight points for the Raiders.

“Then we had chances to get back into the game. Our free throw shooting was atrocious and even late in the game we had a chance to get back in the game, and we turn the ball over a million times. None of that’s good. It’s terrible and you’re not going to win any games if you continue to do all that.”

Howland (1-4, 0-2) has lost four games in a row, three coming in the past week. While the team had time off due to Trumbull County shutting down sports for a month, five games into the schedule there’s no more time to make excuses.

“I need to figure out a rotation I can trust,” Bubon said. “The time for excuses is well past. We’ve got to fix this immediately.”

Howland looks to close out its tough week on a high note as the Tigers travel to Marlington tonight. Harding was originally supposed to play Bedford today, but due to a cancellation, the Raiders’ next game is slated for Tuesday against Austintown Fitch.

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