By Jim Flick
HOWLAND — Thanks to a fast start and strong defense all game long, the Howland Tigers defeated All-American Conference rival Struthers 39-27 on Wednesday night.
Howland (8-2) was led by Taylor Williams, who not only scored 12 points, but also grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked nine shots.
Top scorer for the Tigers was Erika Nites, who sank a pair of 3-pointers on her way to tallying 14 points.
After praising his offensive leaders, Howland coach John Diehl turned his attention to his team’s efforts to limit Struthers’ offense.
“I’m very happy with our defense. Defensively, we did what we had to do.”
Howland led 11-1 after the first quarter. Due in large part to Howland’s strong defense, Struthers (6-3) missed all nine of its field goal attempts.
“We played really good defense and didn’t let their shooters get a good look at the basket,” said Diehl.
Howland also outrebounded Struthers 9-3 in the first quarter.
“Howland always plays good defense,” said Struthers coach John Grandy.
“We dug a hole for ourselves and it’s hard to dig your way out,” Grandy added.
In fact, the hole was so deep that while Wildcats outscored the Tigers in both the second and third quarters, Howland still led 28-22 at the end of three quarters.
But Howland put the game away in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Wildcats 11-5.
Howland took its biggest lead in the opening moments of the second quarter, when Nites made her second 3-pointer of the game to give Howland a 14-1 lead.
The Tigers again led by 13 points after Kaylee Redon stole the ball and scored a layup. Redon finished the game with five points.
But Struthers quickly responded behind Helen-Marie Hird, who scored five straight points by sinking a 3-pointer and a long jumper.
After Struthers’ Ashley Baron sank two tosses from the charity stripe, Howland’s lead was cut to 18-11.
In the third quarter, the battle was nearly even until Struthers’ Marissa Hird sank a layup as the buzzer sounded the end of the period. That basket slashed Howland’s lead to only six points, 28-22.
But that’s as close as the Wildcats came to catching up.
Williams scored the first basket of the fourth quarter to start Howland’s strong effort. After Nites sank two free throws a few minutes later, Howland led 32-23.
As the game neared its conclusion, Nites tossed in two more attempts from the charity strip to push Howland’s lead to 37-25.
“We were just as physical as Howland,” Grandy remarked. “I think our effort was great.
“I’m sure we’ll have better days,” Grandy added. “Our kids always bounce back.”