Next: Howland at Niles, Monday, 7:30 p.m.
Next: Salem vs. Canfield, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
By Doug Chapin
Howland High girls basketball coach John Diehl has, like any coach, a checklist of concerns regarding his teams. Except Diehl’s list is probably quite a bit different than coaches of other area teams.
The Tigers (9-0, 3-0 All-American Conference Red Tier) rolled over Salem High, 73-26, Thursday night for their sixth victory by 20 or more points. The win included a shutout first quarter — not the first time the Tigers have blanked an opponent for an entire quarter.
One of the items on Diehl’s list is convincing his players to improve their defense despite impressive results thus far.
“The girls are looking at me, I’m harping on defense in practice and everything, and here we’ve held some teams under 20 and tonight had a scoreless first quarter, and they’re probably thinking I’m nuts,” Diehl said. “But I keep telling them we’ve got to work better on our half court defense.
“I’ve said this before; we are not the best defensive team I’ve ever coached. I think when we play Harvest Prep and Green here in the next few weeks, those teams will expose our defense.”
Olivia Nicholas led a balanced Tiger attack on Thursday with 17 points to go with six assists and six rebounds. Taylor Williams added 14 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Paige Loychik had 12 points and five steals and Jasmine Robinson chipped in 10 points.
Salem (2-7, 0-2 AAC Red) had six points from Lindsey Foster and six rebounds and four blocked shots from Andrea Seguin.
Howland will be judged on tournament play. The Tigers again are assigned to the Division I district at Warrensville Heights along with Twinsburg, which won the district in 2010, including a 66-30 district semifinal win over Howland.
Diehl beefed up the Tigers’ schedule this season and Howland has responded with victories over Hudson (74-52), Nordonia (49-31), and GlenOak (58-48). Future opponents include Harvest Prep, Green and Shaker Heights.
The game against Harvest Prep is Jan. 16 at Berlin Hiland in the Classic in the Country event. Harvest Prep is the defending state champion in Division IV.
“Harvest Prep has a post player being recruited by some Division I schools and Taylor [Williams] will not be able to leave her and go help,” Diehl said. “We’ve been working on that, I’ve told the girls that’s going to be a problem, because Taylor’s an eraser. She fixes any mistakes made by the guards and when she has to focus on a very good post player, there’s nobody to help them.
“That’s going to tell how good a team we are. If we can compete with them, just compete with them, then we’re pretty good. If they blow us out of the gym ...”