STEEL VALLEY CONFERENCE Harding rallies past Boardman for win, 1st place

The Raiders have a two-game lead in the league standings.
WARREN -- Warren Harding basketball coach Garry Rowland has been waiting a long time for a performance like his Raiders put on in the second half against the Boardman Spartans Friday.
Trailing 23-20 at halftime, the Raiders (14-3, 5-1) produced 41 second-half points to rout the Spartans (8-8, 3-3) 61-46.
The win gives the Raiders a two-game lead over Boardman and Ursuline in Steel Valley Conference play.
Playing better: Harding has been struggling since the death of head coach Frank Bubba two weeks ago, but Rowland says the Raiders are playing better and better every game.
"Sometimes it seems like we are sleepwalking our way through games," Rowland said. "And that was the case in the first half tonight.
"Then in the second half, I think we relaxed and did the things that we are good at," Rowland said. "We ran, rebounded and played good defense."
After losing 80-55 in the first matchup with Harding, Boardman coach Dan Gorski elected to start Friday's game in a zone defense and play a deliberate offensive game against the Raiders.
The strategy paid off handsomely in the first two periods as Boardman was able to stop Harding's transition game and force a half-court contest.
Boardman played patiently and got 10 first-half points from Matt Marks and six from Nick Stefanovich to take a 3-point lead into the third quarter.
"We definitely wanted to slow it down and keep the score down," Gorski said. "However, Harding was more aggressive in the second half and we didn't do a good job of running [our] offense."
Second half explosion: Harding came out on fire in the third quarter behind the hot shooting of senior Ethan Banks and the dominating board play of junior Prescott Burgess.
"I could see Prescott start to assert himself on both ends of the court and a couple of monster tip-ins he had kind of ignited us in the third quarter," Rowland said.
Burgess finished with 14 points and he grabbed 12 rebounds while Banks began to heat up and scored six of his 13 points in the quarter.
"I wasn't getting to the offensive glass in the first half," Burgess said. "We knew that we had to come out and play our game in the second half because they made us play their game in the first half.
"A big part of our game is getting offensive rebounds," Burgess said.
Red-hot shooting: Harding connected on more than 70 percent (19 of 27) of its shots in the second half.
Ronnie Angel helped put the final touches on the victory by making all five of his shots in the fourth quarter.
Angel finished with 12 points.
"We're not a half-court team," Rowland said. "We have to be able to score points in full court transition. We did that in the second half and put 41 points on the board."
Mike Finamore led the Spartans with 15 points while Marks added 12.

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