By greg gulas
Anthony Bell scored 28 points and Mik’quan Dorsey added 17 markers as the Warren Harding High basketball team held off a late Niles rally for Saturday’s 65-61 victory.
Trailing by 11 points in the second period, the Red Dragons fought back to knot the score at 60 apiece on a James Tate bucket in the lane with 1:32 remaining.
Two free throws by Dorsey made it 62-60 with a little more than a minute to play. When Bell added a bucket with 34 seconds left, the Raiders increased their lead to 64-60.
Ray Russ, who had a team-high 18 points for Niles (6-3), converted the back end of two free throws to pull the Red Dragons to within 64-61, but that was the closest they would get.
Ky’ree Stubbs rounded out the scoring with a charity toss with 10 seconds left to complete the scoring.
“Give Niles a ton of credit. They’re a scrappy and gritty group and after playing last night, they still gave us their best shot,” Raiders coach Andy Vlajkovich said.
“Coach [Ron] Price does an unbelievable job with his program and they just outplayed us tonight,” Vlajkovich said. “I have a lot of respect for them.
“As for our effort, we’ve played unselfish and hard all season but that wasn’t the case tonight,” Vlajkovich said. “Ultimately, it’s on me as the coach and I’ll make sure that those two areas are corrected.”
Six points each by Dorsey and Bell staked the Raiders (5-2) to a 22-16 lead after one quarter, increasing their lead to 29-18 when they reeled off seven of the first nine points of the second quarter.
Five points by Tate for the Red Dragons helped Niles close with a 13-7 run to trail 36-31 at the intermission.
“When they [Warren Harding] went up by 11 points, we were able to answer their run with one of our own so the lead didn’t get out of hand,” Price said. “We made some plays down the stretch but free throws weren’t kind to us tonight.
“After the first quarter, we settled down, but give credit to Warren Harding because they have a nice ballclub. This was a great game tonight.”
Ten points by Bell in the third quarter then helped the Raiders to a 51-47 margin with one period remaining.
Free throws proved costly for both teams in the final quarter as the Red Dragons were 5 of 10 from the charity stripe and the Raiders 4 of 10. The two teams a combined 23 of 46 overall (Warren Harding was 14 of 29) for the game.
“I always try to make plays for my team, especially down the stretch,” Dorsey said. “This was a tough game but the important thing is that we got the ‘W.’ Now we can focus on our next game.”
The Red Dragons committed 23 turnovers while the Raiders had 19.