By BOB ROTH
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Rayen School girls basketball team's apparent win over Warren Harding nearly turned into a nightmare Thursday at Lindsey Fieldhouse.
With a blending of the old in senior Cherrell Triplett and the new in freshman Taniesha Holland, the Tigers defeated Harding 67-58 to finish the regular season with a 15-5 record.
The only senior honored on Senior Night, the 5-foot-11 Triplett scored Rayen's first three baskets after Harding had taken a 2-0 lead.
It was a lead that wouldn't be relinquished as Triplett scored 12 points and had three steals to put Rayen in front 18-11 after the first quarter.
Triplett stars: Triplett had a game-high 24 points, 10 rebounds, six steals and four blocked shots. Holland scored 19 points, dished off eight assists and had seven steals.
Rayen out-scored Harding 24-9 in the second quarter to take a 42-20 halftime lead.
Triplett and Holland, with 18 points and 12, respectively, had combined for 30 of Rayen's first-half points. Harding turned the ball over 23 times in the first half.
With five different players scoring, Rayen boosted its lead to 59-34 after three quarters.
With Triplett having three fouls, Rayen coach Holly Seimetz sent fresh players onto the floor to begin the final period.
Ignited run: But Desirae Jenkins, Leigh Carlson and Sharina Freeman ignited a 15-0 run by Harding with 4 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in the game to cut the its deficit to 59-49.
After Triplett fouled out with 4:08 remaining, Rayen's outlook wasn't good. The Tigers scored just one basket in the first part of the fourth quarter.
An Erica Wilson basket for the Tigers seemed to stem the tide, and Holland made 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch.
"We came out real strong, forcing turnovers, and what looked to be an easy win turned into a game with their big fourth-quarter surge," Seimetz said. "I wanted some of our younger kids in to get floor experience, and this one could have gotten away.
"I wasn't worried because I knew Holland was capable of coming up big for us, and she did."
Holland said, "When Cherrell fouled out, I knew I had to step up my game."
Wilson helps: Wilson also was in double figures with 12 points, and she had 11 of Rayen's 38 rebounds.
Jenkins led Harding with 16 points, with Carlson scoring 14 as she was 8-for-8 from the free throw line. Freeman had 13 points and eight rebounds. Ciara Calloway grabbed 11 of Harding's 35 rebounds and was a force for the Raiders in the final quarter.
"There were too many first-half turnovers that led to transition scores due to Rayen's athleticism and defensive pressure," Harding coach P.J. Notar said.