By Steve ruman
One night after seeing his team lose in devastating and highly controversial fashion, Niles coach Ron Price had a simple message for his troops.
“Put it behind us. What else could we do?” Price said. “We had to regroup in a hurry and move forward.”
Price’s message obviously got through to his players 24 hours after a 60-59 loss at Canfield. On Saturday, Niles rebounded in grand style, defeating arch-rival Howland, 80-67, in the Red Dragons’ regular-season finale.
“I cannot be more proud of this group of young men,” Price said. “We had a game taken from us in a complete debacle in Canfield. To come back and play with the intensity that they had tonight showed a lot about their character.”
Niles (12-10) certainly stormed out of the gate as if it had a chip on its shoulder. The Red Dragons scored 32 points in the fist quarter, and led by as many as 17 before holding off several late surges by the Tigers.
Senior Ray Russ led all scorers with 32 points, including 12 in the frantic first period. Chris Parry added 15 points and Justin Lopes had 12.
Brendan Cope and Arbie Murray scored 20 apiece for Howland (8-11). Reece Bogan added 15.
“We felt like we got cheated (Friday) night, and we came out figuring we had something to prove,” Russ said. “Coach Price kept screaming at us in that first period, ‘Step on it, step on it!’ We wanted to keep a wild pace on offense.”
Russ said he and the rest of his teammates had two other incentives going for them on Saturday. The game was the last-ever to be played at War Memorial Gymnasium. Next year, the Dragons will move into a new school.
Also, earlier this year Howland defeated Niles, 80-40. On Saturday, the Dragons scored 40 points by the 4:02 mark of the second period.
“This place was packed,” Russ said. “We couldn’t let down our fans, and we definitely felt like we owed Howland something after they put it to us last month.”
Howland returns to action Tuesday with a road game at Champion. Meanwhile, Niles will have a 13-day layoff before it plays its first tournament game.