Harding lands in final after back-to-back gut-wrenchers

Harding lands in final after back-to-back gut-wrenchers

By Matthew Peaslee



Say you’ve been trying everything to lose weight?

Diets, pills and supplements not working?

Well, spend a few hours in Warren Harding coach Steve Arnold’s shoes and you’ll be shedding those unwanted pounds in no time.

“Look at me,” he said after the Raiders’ thrilling 57-54 district semifinal win over Mentor on Wednesday. “I’m sweating all over, my pants are falling down.

“I’ll take losing weight if we keep winning like this.”

Tallying a 17-3 regular-season record and going 10-2 in the Lake Erie League was easy, dismissing Boardman and East by a combined 49 points in the first and second round of the postseason was also a notch on the belt.

Harding’s next two opponents were going to be anything but a cakewalk.

“They were a great, well-prepared team,” Arnold said of Green, who took the Raiders to overtime before losing 71-69 in the district final. “We didn’t anticipate them sticking it to us through the end, but they came out and didn’t get tired.”

Of Mentor, Arnold said, “It came down to defense for us. They’re too good of a team offensively, so we had to guard them tough and alter all of their shots.”

The Raiders won the past two games by just a combined five points, both coming down to the final seconds with the Green contest going into overtime.

“We planned that, right?” Arnold said.

His team thinks so.

“Nothing is going to come easy,” said center Rashid Gaston.

Guard Rasaun Smith added: “we knew these games were going to be hard. We prepared for it.”

With a handful of games played at small college venues like Walsh and Baldwin-Wallace, even at Duquesne in Pittsburgh and at Cleveland State’s Wolstein Center where the regional tournament is held, Harding has been gearing up for this run all season. While Mentor coach Bob Krizancic said that his team may have been thrown off by the larger court, bright lights and live televised contest, the Raiders weren’t at all.

“We play in summer leagues all over the place,” Arnold said. “Our guys are used to playing in this environment and we play a difficult schedule during the season. We don’t run from anyone.”

Harding’s eighth game of the season was against tonight’s opponent, Lakewood St. Edward. The Eagles (17-7) defeated the Raiders, 62-56, on January 1, but Harding led by three at halftime.

St. Edward’s leading scorer, Myles Hamilton, netted 25 points in its 79-70 defeat of Shaker Heights in the semifinal. The 6-foot-1 guard is signed to play college ball at Kennesaw (Ga.) State.

Stopping him and his Eagles who average 67 points per game is next on the Raiders’ radar.

“We told them on the bus ride up to Cleveland [on Wednesday] that we needed to play 64 great minutes of basketball,” Arnold said. “We already got 32 and we need 32 more on Saturday — that will get us to Columbus.”

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