By Tom Williams
Having squandered an early eight-point lead, Howland High basketball seniors Taylor Williams and Erika Nites found themselves in a dogfight with All-American Conference rival Canfield.
It didn’t last long. After the Cardinals' Allison Pavlansky tied the game with a layup to open the second half, Howland’s best players went on a tear, scoring all the points in a 13-0 run that turned the game into a rout.
On the way to Saturday’s 65-40 victory, the Tigers (14-1, 7-0 American Division) out-scored the Cardinals 25-7 in the third quarter, with Nites scoring 11 and Williams seven.
"That might have been the best we played all year," Howland coach John Diehl said.
Williams’ 12-point fourth quarter included the basket that allowed her to surpass Angela Cape (1,344) as Howland’s all-time leading scorer.
“I had no idea,” said Williams of the moment when her scoring milestone took place. “It feels good to know all your hard work is paying off. It definitely drives us to keep working hard.
"I definitely feel blessed in this game to have [so many] of our community out here to support us, including our boys team.”
Williams scored 27 points and added 10 rebounds. Nites’ 18 points included four 3-pointers.
“They pretty much imposed their will on us in that third quarter," said Canfield coach Pat Pavlansky. “I think we did a great job in the first half of making it difficult on them. We fought back.”
Trailing 11-3, freshman Rachel Tinkey hit her first 3-pointer to ignite Canfield’s 10-5 spurt to close the quarter. The Cardinals (9-6, 5-3) outscored the Tigers, 10-9, in the second frame, but Nites said the Tigers weren’t frustrated with their 25-23 lead.
“We could have worked harder than we did,” Nites said. “We knew at halftime that they were going to come out hard and we needed to [increase] our intensity.”
Then there was the basket in the final 1.5 seconds of the third quarter. At the far end of the court, Nites fired a strike of an inbounds pass to Williams under the basket. Airborne, Williams caught the pass and scored, adding another highlight to their four-year varsity careers.
“We’ve been saving that,” Williams said. “Erika has always had a good arm. As soon as we saw the time and the position of the ball, I looked at Coach Diehl with a smile and he [called it]. It worked perfectly.”
Nites, the softball team’s shortstop, said, “That was so exciting, we’ve been saving that all year.”
Pavlansky said the Tigers' record is deserved.
“They’ve got all the parts," Pavlansky said. "They have a point guard who can penetrate better than average. They have three outstanding shooters from 3-point range. And they have a 6-4 post [player] who has scored almost 1,400 points and made 1,100 rebounds."
Tinkey’s 15 points included three 3-pointers to lead the Cardinals. Junior post player Sabrina Mangapora scored 10 points.
Williams acknowledged the Howland tradition of strong post players that includes Cape and Williams' older sister, Alexis.
“Having a sister who plays collegiately [Lehigh] definitely rubs off on me," Williams said. "Having the pressure of those other [post players' success] helps you to step up."