By Doug Chapin
HOWLAND — Junior forward T..J Lanier poured in 26 points to lead the Howland High football team past Fitch, 74-59, Friday night in an up-tempo season opener on the Tigers’ floor.
“We like to attack offensively. We did a nice job rebounding tonight,” Howland coach Dan Campana said. “It was the first game, so we had a few wrinkles in there we need to take care of but our kids played hard and I was happy with what I saw.”
Campana is in his first season as head coach at Howland. He previously was head coach at Mathews High.
“We look for up-tempo, we look to score in transition,” Campana said about his young squad which includes just one senior starter. “We look for good shots in the transition game. Tonight, we had a lot of looks from 3-point range and we took advantage of it.”
The Tigers shot 45 percent (27-of-60) from the floor, including 23 percent (five-of-22) from the 3-point line.
Lanier got plenty of support from his teammates. Junior point guard Josh Davis scored 17 points, including four-of-six shooting from 3-point range. Guard Stephawn Brown had 10 points and forwards Matt Haering and Dontea Dawson added nine and seven points, respectively.
Brown had 11 rebounds, Dawson nine and Lanier seven as Howland dominated the boards, 40-24.
“T.J. is one of the people we go through on offense in transition and we look for him to attack the hoop,” Campana said. “We have several people who can do that and we like to get to the foul line. We also did a nice job taking care of the ball tonight.”
Fitch, with just two returning starters from a 3-18 squad, was led by sophomore guard Will Mahone with 16 points and seven rebounds.
Ty Underwood scored 12 points and Shane Stevens had 11. Senior DeAndre Richardson, one of those returning starters, did not play until midway through the third quarter and finished with eight points.
“First and foremost, the kids are working real hard every single day and they’ve done everything that we’ve asked them to do,” first-year coach Jason Baker said. “Obviously, I don’t think a loss is great progress, but we are taking steps in the right direction.
“And this is a process, we all know that, we all understand that.”
Baker listed the areas in which the Falcons need improvement.
“Defensively we have to get a lot better,” he said. “I think we need more balance offensively. We had a lot of good looks tonight, we just had a hard time putting the ball in the basket. We’ve got to rebound better and we’ve got to play better defensively.”
Fitch shot 39 percent (23-of-59) from the field, including nine-of-31 from behind the arc.
“I feel like we have really good shooters,” Baker said. “We need to understand if the shot is not falling we need to get to the basket a little bit, get some touches inside. Like I said, more balance on offense. But I have a lot of confidence in our shooters.”
Baker said Richardson not playing the first half “was an in-house matter. He will be back full-go on Tuesday night.”
Howland led 17-9 after the first quarter and pushed the lead to as large as 12 in period two before settling for a 31-27 halftime advantage. The Tigers scored the first nine points of the third quarter and held a 13-point lead three different times in the frame. The score was never closer in the final quarter than the 48-38 count at the end of the third period.