DIV. I Harding avoids early exit this time
The Raiders had four players in double figures against Cleveland John Hay.
By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
CLEVELAND -- The Warren Harding High basketball team waited until the second half, but the Raiders were able to knock the monkey off their backs.
Tuesday at Cleveland South High, the Raiders defeated Cleveland John Hay 75-61 in the Division I sectional boys tournament.
Last year, Harding entered the same sectional tournament as the No. 1 seed and was upset in the opening round by Cleveland Heights.
With thoughts of last year's disappointing tournament loss and with the recent death of Coach Frank Bubba on their minds, Harding came out with something to prove to the Cleveland teams in this tournament.
Pre-game pressure: "There was a lot of pressure on us and in my stomach prior to the game," Harding coach Garry Rowland said. "You come up here ranked sixth in the state and everyone knows what happened to us last year.
"That weighed on everyone's mind and led to the opening jitters."
Shaking off those jitters that led to a poor first-half performance, Harding (18-3) connected for 49 second-half points with a balanced offensive scoring effort.
The Raiders placed four players in double figures, with juniors Danny Stella leading the way with 19 points and Prescott Burgess scoring 16.
Senior Ethan Banks added 13 points, while junior Mike Phillips scored 10. Senior Shelby Chaney scored eight points.
With the win, the second-seeded Raiders advance to play Cleveland JFK Friday at 7:45 p.m.
"I think we had something to prove," Rowland said. "I think we tried to come out and prove it all in the first two minutes of the game.
"We were forcing passes and forcing shots. We weren't patient. We had a lot of opportunities early but turned the ball over," Rowland said.
Despite playing poorly, Harding stayed close to the Hornets (10-8) in the first half.
Burgess was the go-to guy in the first half as he scored 10 points to help keep Harding to within three points, 29-26, at halftime.
Rowland said he addressed the Raiders' impatience at halftime.
"At halftime I told them that they were trying to accomplish too much too quick," Rowland said. "In the second half, we had better ball movement. Our passing was also much better and we got good open looks at the basket."
Taking control: Harding slowly took control in the third quarter behind some torrid shooting by Stella and Banks.
Stella hit four consecutive baskets in the period and Banks drilled three 3-pointers as Harding opened a 45-36 lead.
By the end of the quarter, Harding's lead was 50-41 and the Raiders maintained control down the stretch by making 11-of-15 free throws.
Harding managed to gain control of the rebounding in the second half as Burgess grabbed 10 boards and Chaney eight.
The Hornets were led by junior Emery Williams, who scored 26 points, and Marcus Grayer with 18.
Rowland said that getting the win over John Hay was significant because Bubba's first win as coach at Harding in 1997 came against the Hornets.