Tigers battle to stay unbeaten

By Doug Chapin

Freshmen Erika Nites and Taylor Williams led Howland past Salem, 45-37.

HOWLAND — Freshmen Erika Nites and Taylor Williams played key roles as Howland High stayed unbeaten on the season with a hard-fought 45-37 victory Saturday night over Salem High.

Nites nailed three straight 3-pointers in about two minutes of the third quarter to turn a 22-16 deficit into a 25-22 Howland lead.

Her fourth 3-pointer, which came less than a minute into the final quarter, ended a 15-0 run for the Tigers and left them with a 31-22 advantage.

Williams’ contribution came mostly on the defensive end as she, with help from her teammates, held Salem’s Amy Scullion scoreless in the third quarter. Scullion had scored 13 of her game-high 20 points in the first half, leading the Quakers to an 18-16 halftime lead.

“That’s been my word, freshmen,” Howland coach John Diehl said. “Nites has been in a little bit of a slump over the last four or five games and wow. What’d she have, four threes in a tough spot? That’s unbelievable. They tried to trap and Abby [Nicholas] was able to get her the ball and she squared and shot and they went in.

“Taylor Williams did a great job. We made that switch at halftime, we thought maybe the longer arms would throw Scullion’s shot off a little bit. Taylor did an excellent job defensively.”

Howland (13-0, 3-0 AAC Red) held its largest lead, 36-24, with 5:48 left in the game, but Salem clawed back to within 39-37 at the 1:33 mark.

Nicholas made both ends of a one-and-one for Howland and grabbed the rebound after a Salem miss at the other end.

The Tigers’ Jessica Wilson fed Megan Long for a bucket to make it 43-37, grabbed a Salem miss and sank two free throws with 26 seconds remaining to set the final score.

Nites finished with 17 points and senior post player Kelly Barzak added 11 points, five rebounds and four blocked shots.

Wilson had seven points and four assists, Nicholas had seven rebounds and five assists and Williams finished with six points, four rebounds and two blocks.

Scullion added 10 rebounds to her 20 points and Brittney Ritchie had 12 points and seven rebounds.

Ironically, Barzak left the game with her fourth foul early in the third quarter, but Howland still was able to rally.

Salem coach Jeff Andres liked how things were going when Barzak went out.

“We felt pretty good where we were,” he said. “Going into halftime and then coming out and she [Barzak] gets her fourth foul early in the third. It was just unfortunate we left their shooters open there a little bit and they made us pay for it. They made some threes and it went from us up six to us down six or so in the blink of an eye.”

Diehl said he and his staff were trying to determine when they would have to get Barzak back in the game. As things turned out, he did not have to rush her back.

“We talked about it and thought we would have to get her back in if we got down by 10,” Diehl said. “But as long as we were ahead I didn’t mind her sitting beside me so she would be fresh to finish off the game at the end.”

The Quakers (11-3, 2-2) are continuing to make progress, according to Andres.

“No doubt about it we’re still progressing. We’ve got some young kids who haven’t been in these situations before,” he said. “We’re going to learn from it tonight. But I definitely think we’re getting better. We’re coming together and starting to believe in ourselves and in our abilities.”

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