The Raiders lost to Massillon Perry 55-46 in the Division I tournament opener.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
ALLIANCE -- Warren Harding girls basketball coach P.J. Notar stood in the hallway at Alliance High School on Saturday holding his daughter, Alexis, in his arms.
Notar had just coached his last game for Harding -- a 55-46 loss to Massillon Perry in the Division I tournament opener -- and was already thinking about his future.
"I'm looking to be a good husband and a better father," Notar said. "I'll get back into coaching when the time is right."
For now, Notar's mind is on his family. His second child will arrive in June.
"It's time for a change," he said. "There's a lot of emotions involved. My heart will always be with Warren."
Notar, a 1983 Harding graduate, has been head coach of the Raiders (6-15) for the past seven years. This was his first losing season in 12 years of coaching.
He actually considered stepping down before this season, but the Raider seniors talked him out of it.
"We didn't have the year we wanted to, but this was one of the nicest teams I've ever coached," Notar said. "I coach to learn. I coach for the relationships with players. Losing doesn't affect me."
Back and forth: The Raiders stayed close with Perry for much of the game. The first quarter ended in a 13-13 tie and Harding took a 20-19 lead at halftime.
But the Panthers (11-10) caught fire in the third, outscoring Harding 19-8 to take a 38-28 lead after three. Perry senior Emily Scheetz, an all-Federal League pick, drilled three 3-pointers in the third quarter and finished with 15 points, six assists and five rebounds.
Harding trailed 49-35 midway through the fourth, but went on a 9-0 run to cut it to 49-44 with 1:03 left. The Raiders did not get any closer.
"They played us to the death," Perry coach Kevin Scarbrough said. "To be honest, they had a good scout on us.
"But we sort of got them in a funk in the third quarter. They left Emily open outside and nine times out of 10, she's gonna make them."
Scoring leaders: Tiffany Evans also had 15 points for the Panthers and Carrie Rue added seven assists.
Raider freshman Desirae Jenkins scored nine of her 13 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed five rebounds. Junior Sharina Freeman and senior Leigh Carlson each added 12 points.
"It's just like we weren't in sync the whole game," Notar said. "But I think we played our best basketball toward the end of the season. We weren't blessed with the best of talent, but they gave me everything they had."
Perry will play Boardman Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Alliance High School.
"They have no faults," Scarbrough said of the Spartans. "They pressure as well as anyone I've seen. They're a tough matchup."