Harding defenders taking charge

By Doug Chapin

The Raiders blanked the Golden Flashes in the first quarter of an easy win.

WARREN — Defense is the name of the game for the Warren Harding High girls basketball team this season. That was never more apparent than the first quarter Tuesday night.

The Raiders held visiting Champion High scoreless and built a 14-0 lead on the way to a 60-27 rout.

“It was nice how the girls came out aggressive and our defense became our offense,” Harding coach P.J. Notar said. “We need to keep working on our offense, it seems we’re not running it well enough.

“But we got after it and that’s what makes Raider defense, Raider pride what it is.

“We’ve been working on our zone press against both makes and misses,” Notar said. “We know our offense is going to come from our defense. They particularly understand that being aggressive is going to make them that much better.”

Champion (1-1) made just 10 of 49 shots from the field and was just six-of-20 at the foul line.

“We’re playing a lot of juniors, we’re playing a lot of sophomores,” Champion coach Jeff Thompson said. “I thought defensively, we didn’t do a poor job. We actually did a decent job on the rebounds too. It came down to we got nervous handling their pressure and that led to quick shots.

“Against teams like this you have to make your easy shots and make your free throws to stay in the game,” Thompson said. “My kids’ effort was good, but it just comes down to rushing the things we don’t need to rush.”

Harding (2-0) recorded 17 steals and forced 10 turnovers. The Raiders also committed 13 turnovers and Champion had eight steals. Harding led 30-11 at halftime and 46-18 after three quarters.

Senior Jasmine Kirkland led the Harding offense with 17 points. Kourtney Williams had 10 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Brittany Rumple contributed 12 points.

Lindsay Swipas led Champion in scoring with nine points.

Harding has all the ingredients needed for a defense that can turn into instant offense. The Raiders have quickness, length, depth and aggressiveness, plus they have enough experience that they can employ multiple defenses.

“That comes with the experience and the younger girls feed off of the seniors,” Notar said. “They understand the fact that we can use multiple defenses any time we need to. Late in the game at some point this season, we’re going to have make a stop.”

Thompson noted the Raiders’ versatility on defense.

“The problem with Harding’s defense is they can change it up at a moment’s notice,” he said. “They go from a man, they can run the diamond, they can run the diamond three-quarter court, then half-court. They can go into a 2-3 or 1-2-2 and trap out of it. You have to be prepared all the time for a trap at any time.

“We’ll get back in the gym tomorrow and work on things. Honestly, they’re [Harding] going to have a good season and I still think we’re going to have a good season.”

Notar knows for that good season to play out the Raiders still have work to do.

“We’re going to see zone defenses eventually, so we’ve got to work against zone,” he said. “We’re going to have to sharpen things on offense, take care of the ball better. And we’ll probably work on another zone press so we don’t abuse the one that we’re using.”

Yes, defense is the name of the game for the Raiders this season.

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