By Doug Chapin
With four seniors gone from a 17-4 season there were some questions surrounding Warren Harding High as the new girls basketball campaign got started. But the Raiders showed Tuesday night they will play the same up-tempo style, using their speed and athleticism to rout Champion, 70-39.
“In order for us to keep everybody involved and keep their head in the ball game we have to set the tempo,” Harding coach P.J. Notar said. “We have to use our advantage, our speed.
“We have several versions of our press and we try to use our basketball experience and intelligence to make other teams adjust.”
Senior forward Kourtney Williams poured in 20 points for the Raiders on 7-for-10 shooting, adding eight rebounds and eight steals. Juniors Anita Brown and Brianna McCurdy tallied 14 and 10 points, respectively, and senior Diamonn Hymes had nine points. McCurdy added four assists and seven steals.
“We feel that we have a very special player in Kourtney Williams,” Notar said. “She’s being looked at by Villanova and you can see why with her athleticism.”
Champion didn’t seem to have as many questions coming off an 18-4 season until point guard Paige Loychick transferred to Howland at the end of the school year. Loychick was the Golden Flashes’ best player last year as a sophomore.
“We knew Paige leaving was going to cause changes, we knew we weren’t going to be as quick as we were,” Champion coach Jeff Thompson said. “We’re going to have to be more of an inside team. We had a good summer and a good scrimmage schedule, but this is just a tough game to open up with.
“They beat us last year and we went on to win 18 games. That’s what I told the kids, this game shows you what you need to work on but it‘s just one game against a very good team.”
Juniors Haley McAllister and Lindsay Swipas scored 11 and eight points, respectively, for Champion. McAllister added 10 rebounds and sophomore Mackenzie Kiser had nine.
Harding ran out to a 9-2 advantage early and stretched it to 18-8 after one quarter. The Raiders opened the advantage to 38-17 at halftime and led 53-32 after three quarters.
Harding shot 25-for-49 (51 percent) from the field, but more importantly recorded 24 steals and forced 12 additional Champion turnovers.