WARREN — Even Warren Harding coach Steve Arnold had to admit he was a little surprised at how easily his Raiders dominated Cleveland St. Ignatius on Saturday night.
“I didn’t see that coming,” Arnold said after his team’s impressive 66-34 victory over the state’s sixth ranked team in Division I. “I didn’t think we could dominate them like that to be honest.
“It was just one of those games where everything went well for us. Things just snowballed.”
The Raiders (12-1) used a tenacious zone defense and balanced scoring offensively to jump on the Wildcats right from the start.
Fred Williams led Harding with 19 points while Tre Brown added 17. Kennis White scored 14 points and grabbed 9 rebounds.
“[Harding’s] a very good team,” said St. Ignatius coach Sean O’Toole. “That’s the best team we’ve played, there is no question.
“You say as a coach what could we have done. There’s not one thing that we didn’t try. Harding played great tonight. They pushed the ball. They offensive rebounded well. They share the basketball and they shot extremely well.
“We didn’t have any answers.”
The Wildcats (9-3) especially didn’t have any answers for Harding’s zone defense which was nearly impenetrable in the first quarter and throughout the game.
“I’ve always been a man defense-principled coach,” said Arnold. “Sometimes you have to adjust to what your talent gives you. Because we’re not as quick as we used to be but we are longer so teams have trouble shooting over our zone.
“And if we rebound out of it we can get down the floor for easy baskets like tonight. Sometimes the ball never hit the floor on our fast breaks.”
Before St. Ignatius could figure out the Harding zone — they used two timeouts in the first five minutes — the Raiders had a 21-4 lead.
Warren continued to press the lead in the second quarter with it’s defense which yielded only 10 more points for a 32-14 lead at the break.
To make matters worse, Harding broke the third quarter with a 15-4 start to all but get the Cleveland buses started.
“You have to be able to recognize things after this many games and be able to make adjustments and we didn’t do that,” said O’Toole.
When asked if this is the best game the Raiders have played this year, Arnold said he wasn’t so sure.
“It was a toss up between tonight and the [Akron] St. V’s game,” Arnold said.
One thing that was evident was that the Raiders couldn’t have played any more impressively than they did for four quarters against one of the top teams in the state.
“That’s a great team over there,” said Arnold referring to the Wildcats.
Harding which is ranked third in Division I is in a three-game stretch of games that could determine whether the Raiders will get a No. 1 seed in the Division I district tournament.
The Raiders will play Canton McKinley at home on Tuesday and next Saturday at Mansfield Senior.