By Jim Flick
YOUNGSTOWN — The Warren Harding High boys basketball team spurted out to a big first-quarter lead over Mooney Tuesday night, then turned back repeated rallies to emerge with a 61-52 win.
The Raiders outscored the Cardinals 24-12 in the game’s first stanza. Harding’s lead peaked at 14 points just before halftime.
But Mooney rallied, cutting the lead to just four points early in the fourth quarter before Harding stormed back to put the game out of reach.
“I was real proud of our guys,” said Mooney coach Chris Kohl, praising their determination in cutting Harding’s lead. “We learned a lot tonight.”
Four players who scored in double figures for Harding (4-0). Angelo Gonzalez led with 18 points while Fred Williams and Kennis White each scored 14 points, and Tre Brown contributed 13 points.
Harding coach Steve Arnold pointed out that Gonzalez and Williams “have extensive variety experience” and both promise to have outstanding seasons.
“We have a chance to be pretty good,” Arnold said.
Mooney (2-1) was led by senior Jeff Chahine, who scored connected on four long-range three-point shots as he scored 16 points. Chuck Gruber put 10 points on the board for Mooney, while John Stoops added eight points. Five other players contributed to the Cardinals’ balanced attack.
Another important statistic was rebounding. The Raiders dominated the boards, hauling down 42 rebounds, compared to only 25 for the Cardinals.
Warren Harding’s strong defensive play, which caused turnovers and stopped Mooney rallies, was a key factor, Raiders coach Steve Arnold said.
“Any time you play defense and rebound, you always have a chance to win,” Arnold said.
However, Arnold also said his team became lackadaisical at times, which allowed Mooney to rally.
“I told the guys before the game that I was worried about our focus, and that this is a better Mooney team than Mooney teams we’ve played before,” Arnold said.
Mooney “spread the ball around and shoots pretty well,” Arnold said.
The Harding coach added that his own team “has guys that can do multiple things. We’re pretty strong and the guys are lifting weights.”
Kohl said his team’s best games lie ahead as the Mooney football team’s state championship cut into the basketball team’s preparation.
“By the first of the year we’ll be clicking on all cylinders,” Kohl said. “Now, we’re just getting these guys in the flow.
“We’ll be all right,” Kohl added. “I can’t say enough about how hard these guys worked tonight.
“This was our loss,” the Mooney coach said, smiling. “We’re done losing now. We’re going to win.”