McKinley takes notes, Harding takes victory
Phillips sparks Raiders in overtime against Bulldogs.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
WARREN -- With his team clinging to a 57-55 lead with 15 seconds left, Canton McKinley High basketball coach Dave Hoover grabbed his clipboard and wrote two things: "No 3s" and "No fouls."
The Bulldogs must not have been paying attention.
Warren Harding's Mike Phillips drove inside, hit a layup and was fouled with 2.5 seconds left, tying the game and giving Harding a chance to win.
Phillips missed the free throw, but he wouldn't make the same mistake in overtime.
The senior guard scored Harding's first four overtime points and the Raiders held off the visiting Bulldogs, 63-61 Friday night.
"I thought I made it -- it went in and out," Phillips said of the free throw. "People are going to talk to me about that. I can't miss that."
Phillips scored a game-high 21 points and added eight rebounds and five assists for the Raiders (3-0), whose starters scored every point.
All five starters played for Harding's state finalist football team, which gave the Raiders a late start on basketball season.
"I'm not going to use that as an excuse," Harding's first-year coach Steve Arnold said. "I knew the football team had a good chance to advance far in the playoffs.
"There's still a learning curve. The kids are getting used to me and it's a process. We just have to get better every game."
Harding was out-rebounded 22-13 in the first half and shot poorly (33 percent), but was down just 28-25 at halftime. The Raiders trailed most of the second half, but never got behind by more than eight points.
The Raiders trailed 53-46 with 6:20 left in the fourth quarter, but went on a 9-2 run to tie the game.
Harding held defensively, but Danny Stella missed a shot that would have given the Raiders the lead. McKinley sophomore Sean Witherspoon grabbed the rebound and tossed a cross-court pass to Stan Hall, who laid it in to give the Bulldogs their final lead of the game.
"Danny took some ill-advised shots and I let him know about it," Arnold said. "I thought we had a good chance [on the last possession] if I got Michael [Phillips] the ball. It was a gut feeling."
Pulling it out
Phillips delivered, and Harding held McKinley scoreless for the first three minutes in overtime to take control.
The Bulldogs cut their deficit to 62-61, but Stella hit a late free throw and McKinley's Jason Snow missed an off-balance shot at the buzzer.
"I felt like we could win it in overtime," Phillips said. "We've still got that football mentality."
John Papacostas led McKinley (2-2) with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Stella finished with 15 points and Jonte' Stroud added 10 points and 10 rebounds. Prescott Burgess had nine points and Josh Johnson added eight points and 14 rebounds.