By Greg Gulas
The Struthers Wildcats prepared all weekend for Girard High’s guard Evan Standohar.
Containing him for the better part of three quarters proved to be a daunting task.
With the game on the line, however, they simply had no answer.
Standohar’s jumper with 1.5 seconds to play was the difference as the Indians stopped the Wildcats, 54-52, in an All-American Conference intra-division matchup Thursday at the Struthers Field House.
“The play was designed for Craig [Randall] to come off a screen and shoot the open shot,” Standohar said. “I just hung around the bucket and knew exactly how much time was remaining so I was able to get off a good shot.”
First-year Indians coach Craig Hannon said that Standohar’s play all season long has been a key to their success.
“I’ve been saying all season that every player should watch Evan [Standohar] rebound. He has a will and a way and just makes thing happen,” Hannon said. “Struthers is one of the hotter teams in the area and coach [Joe] Savko does a fantastic job of getting his team ready. We didn’t play our best game, but credit Struthers as the reason why. They take you out of your offense and play physical defensively. Both teams played hard the entire 32 minutes.”
The Wildcats (8-13) reeled off the game’s first five points and built a 12-8 advantage midway through the opening period.
Ray’Quan Phifer, who along with teammate Temeko Holness meshed a game-high 17 markers, scored seven points in the opening frame enabling Struthers to build a 17-16 advantage after the first eight minutes of play.
The Indians (14-5), who hit four 3-pointers in the opening quarter, then outscored the Wildcats by a 10-9 count in the second period as they forged a halftime tie at 26.
Five points by the Wildcats’ Dan Partika offset eight points by Randall as Struthers held a 41-39 margin heading to the final period.
“It doesn’t matter who has the ball, we’re there for each other. When my teammates get me the ball I just try to do what I can in order for us to win,” Randall said. “Struthers is a physical team, but we manned up and were able to get the win. That’s the important thing.”
An 11-0 run by Girard, concluding with a triple by Dylan O’Hara helped Girard to a 46-41 lead at 5:36 of the final period.
Four points by Holness and a triple by Anthony Quattro then kick-started an 11-6 run by Struthers as they tied the game at 52 with 21 seconds remaining.
That then set up the game-winning shot by Standohar as the Indians won for the fourth straight time and the sixth time in their last seven outings.
“It was a great game with both teams giving it their all for 32 minutes,” Savko said. “Evan [Standohar] is the best 5-foot-9 rebounder in the country and we had a body on him the entire game. The biggest play of the game, however, is when he made it happen and that is the sign of a good player.”