By Doug Chapin
WARREN — Basketball can be a funny game sometimes.
On Tuesday night, the Warren Harding High boys held a 29-22 halftime lead over Canton McKinley despite the fact the Raiders’ three top scorers for the season — seniors Fred Williams, Angel Gonzalez and Kennis White — shot a combined 0-for-13 from the field in the first half.
Things seemingly returned to normal as all three made buckets in the third quarter, including a 3-pointer by Williams.
But those were the only points the Raiders scored in the period as McKinley used a 23-7 advantage in the quarter to open a 45-36 lead on the way to its 59-50 road triumph.
Harding (13-2) came into the game ranked third in the state in Division I by the Associated Press.
“We couldn’t put the ball in the basket. Everything seemed to go in on Saturday, but it didn’t go in tonight,” Harding coach Steve Arnold said, referring to the Raiders’ 66-34 win over Cleveland St. Ignatius.
“There are going to be nights when there is a lid on the basket, and you’ve got to be able to get stops and you’ve got to be able to rebound and do the intangible things. They out-hustled us tonight.”
The Bulldogs (11-3) made six of their first seven shot attempts in the third quarter, including four 3-pointers. McKinley ended up 8-for-14 from the field in the quarter, compared to Harding’s 3-for-16.
“We wanted to find the open looks,” McKinley coach Greg Malone said about the Bulldogs’ hot shooting after halftime. “We talked about wanting to attack off the dribble, see if we could get skip passes, find guys that way. And also attack in transition, get some looks there.
“I think we got a combination of those, and we also talked about when you get your shot, step up and shoot it.”
The visitors caught up at 34-34 with 4:21 left in the quarter, but White scored to put the Raiders back on top at the 3:58 mark. McKinley then ran off 14 points in a row to take control. The Bulldogs largest lead was 54-39 with 3:40 remaining in the game.
Harding ended up shooting 31 percent (18-for-59) from the field for the game and just 44 percent (11-for-25) from the free throw line.
McKinley’s Cecil Smith, a 6-foot-8 junior, grabbed eight rebounds, recorded four blocked shots and affected many other Raider shots in the paint area. The Bulldogs were led in scoring by Da’Onta Streeter with 15 points, Che Richardson with 12 and Isiah Elliot with 11, to go with six assists.
Harding was led by Williams and Tre’ Brown who each recorded 11 points and four assists. Gonzalez grabbed eight rebounds and White had seven.
“Give McKinley credit, they are long and they bothered some of our shots in the paint,” Arnold said about the Bulldogs‘ impressive size up front. “Customarily we could finish those shots, but they contested and got some shot blocks and we became a little timid in the paint. Give them credit.”
“I think our length inside bothered them, especially when big guys are used to being able to catch and turn and shoot,” Malone said. “We talked to the guys about contesting shots without fouling. It can get into your head a little bit.”
In addition to the shooting woes, the Raiders seemed just a step slow, according to Arnold.
“At times we seemed a step behind,” he said. “A couple of steals we could have had and the ball just slipped through our hands. We just didn’t react quick enough, we seemed just a step behind all night.