By Doug Chapin
WARREN — A Division I top seed minus one of its best players would be expected to be better than a Division IV top seed minus two of its best players.
That scenario played out Friday night at Warren Harding High. The Raiders, ranked fourth in the Associated Press Division I state poll and seeded first at the Warrensville Heights sectional-district, pummeled city rival John F. Kennedy, 100-27.
The Eagles, seeded first in the Division IV sectional-district to be played at Harding, were missing senior starters Nick Brown (6-foot-7) and Nick Procopio (6-foot-4).
Harding played for the third time without three-year starter Sheldon Brogdon, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on Feb. 3.
“We talked before the game to just be concerned with ourselves,” Harding coach Steve Arnold said. “We had heard Nick and Procopio were out, but at the same time, Fred [Williams] didn’t practice all week. He had a virus and he practiced just a little bit yesterday.
“We had a good three days of practice this week. We went Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and we really got after it. I just told the kids to extend that practice to a game situation.”
The Raiders (14-1) indeed got after it, extending a 17-6 lead five minutes into the game to a 32-6 advantage with 5:21 left in period two.
Desmar Jackson scored a game-high 16 points, Williams had 14 points and four assists, Angel Gonzalez contributed 11 points and nine rebounds and Tre Brown scored 10 points.
Kennedy coach Bruce Timko said the Eagles knew what they were in for, especially without Brown and Procopio.
“One thing we wanted to see was how our guards dealt with their pressure, just to work on it,” he said. “We knew what we were in for, it’s a totally different atmosphere, Kennedy and Harding in basketball. And that’s OK. Our kids played hard, that’s all you could ask for, and we just move on. Our kids are fine and we’ll move on, and [today] we’ll play Ursuline.
“We have one goal, to win the district championship here on this floor come March. That’s our goal and the kids are focusing on that. Tonight’s game gave us an opportunity to play in this gym. We knew what we were in for. These are smart kids and we’ll move on from this.”
Deonte Stubbs had eight points and Carl Broadbent seven for the Eagles (9-5).
Harding, meanwhile, continues to adjust to the loss of Brogdon.
“We’re still adjusting. It’s got to be done by committee,” Arnold said. “The scoring of course is one area you’re going to miss Sheldon, but the experience … it’s experience. That’s a three-year starter you’re taking out. He had a feel for the game that they [his replacements] don’t have.
“Hopefully we’re going to get it from Jimmy May and Tre Brown, and we hope these last five regular-season games will speed up the process, the learning curve, for those guys.”
Arnold said the Raiders’ coaching staff is concerned most with the team’s defense.
“For the three days in practice this week we worked on our defense. We did some offensive things, but I’m not too concerned about scoring; that will come,” he said.
“As a coaching staff we’re concerned with our defensive pressure, stopping penetration and our defensive rebounding. We’ll get a better test [today] down at Zanesville. And the atmosphere down there, it will help our young guys, it will be like a tournament atmosphere.”