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Still undefeated

Harding holds off Spartans’ upset bid

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Warren G. Harding senior Faith Burch, right, makes a move against Boardman’s Emma Mills on Wednesday night.

BOARDMAN — The Warren G. Harding Raiders have been red hot, despite missing the first month of their season.

With wins over quality teams such as McDonald and Liberty, Harding has picked up early momentum, but it found itself in a battle Wednesday evening against a youthful Boardman team.

Coming off a pair of losses last week to Canfield and Poland, the Spartans looked to rebound against an undefeated Raiders team, and they were within a point early in the fourth quarter.

That was until Harding senior Faith Burch hit a massive 3-pointer to propel her team to a 48-44 road victory.

“Personally, I feel like I did good,” said Burch after scoring a game-high 16 points. “I locked in, I kind of just zoned in and, like we got to get a win, so I took it personally.”

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Warren G. Harding sophomore Selena Williamson, right, steals the ball from Mills, left, during the first half.

She scored eight points in the final period.

Harding (8-0) coach Frank Caputo knew that Burch was going to prevent a Spartans upset.

“She’s our constant, she’s 100-percent hustle all the time, sprinting up and down the floor,” he said. “She was struggling a little bit in the beginning, but her mental state has been so much better, she keeps herself mentally in the game all the time.”

Neither team found rhythm early offensively, as Harding senior Alasha Williams knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give her team a 9-3 lead going into the second quarter.

Later, Harding went on a 10-0 run before halftime, which was capped off by a three-point play by sophomore Selena Williamson to make it 22-10 in favor of the visitors going into the locker room.

The Raiders led by as much as 26-10 in the third, but Boardman kept chipping away at the deficit. A strong defensive effort held Harding scoreless during the final 3:06 of the third quarter, and allowed the Spartans to go on an 8-0 run, including two big baskets by senior Katie Stamp to slash the deficit to 34-31.

Fellow senior Raegan Burkey opened the fourth with a bucket to make it a one-point contest, but Burch’s aforementioned 3-pointer ended the Raiders’ prolonged scoring drought at the 5:56 mark to make it 37-33.

Boardman first-year coach Brett Green said it’s about having to put together a cohesive package.

“We want to put together a whole game, and not just moments,” he said. “We got to do some things early in the first quarter, we missed too many wide open layups. I mean, we’re getting the looks, we’re just not finishing, but we’re going to get better with that tomorrow.”

Prior to the contest, both teams honored the life of Christine Terlesky, a former coach and teacher, and a 1991 graduate of Boardman High School. She passed away on Dec. 26, after a seven-year battle with ALS.

Her family was brought to center court before tipoff, as Boardman presented them a plaque honoring her, along with a game ball that was signed by both the Spartans and Raiders.

Burch was followed by Williamson with 12 points and Williams with 10.

The Raiders’ eight wins ties the second-longest winning streak Harding had last season, but there is still catching up to do.

“It affected us a lot with conditioning and just getting in rhythm,” Burch said about the Raiders missing time because of the pandemic. “It’s different from practicing and being in a game, so it was hard, but we’re getting into rhythm game-by-game.”

Stamp and Burkey led Boardman (3-11) with 14 and 11 points, respectively.

For Green and the Spartans, it’s about identifying the situation.

“It comes down to finishing and being in the moment,” he said. “To be able to realize how much time is on the clock, what the score is, not rushing anything, and just taking a breath sometimes.”

When it’s all said and done, Caputo is pleased to walk away with a road victory.

“I’m real happy with them. Anytime you still got the zero on the one end you’ve got to be happy,” he said. “But, we just have to keep focusing on important moments and we’ll get through it like we did tonight.”

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