from early loss to rival Liberty
By Tim Cleveland
After a 20-point drubbing in December to Liberty, Girard went back to the drawing board and got back to work.
Friday night, the Indians showed what they learned from the first meeting with the Leopards, taking control of a close game in the third quarter and pulling away for a 62-46 victory over their All-American Conference, National Division rival.
“We just played smart,” Girard coach Craig Hannon said. “We wanted to slow the game down a little bit. Last game, they got us in transition and we never stopped them. They’re really good when they get out and run. Our kids executed. Whatever we asked them to do, they did.”
After trailing for most of the first half, Jim Standohar got hot and got Girard (9-2, 5-1) the lead.
Down by three points, he converted a three-point play to tie the game, then made a 3-pointer just before the buzzer for a 27-24 advantage.
Standohar made another 3 to open the third quarter, and the Indians ended up with a 10-0 run to take a 31-24 lead.
“They’re a great team,” he said. “We had a hard week of practice and it really feels good. We executed and did what we had to do. We followed our game plan and we just came out on top.”
Standohar finished with a game-high 18 points.
After Liberty (7-5) got back to within two points later in the third, Standohar dished to Dylan O’Hara on consecutive possessions and O’Hara made 3-pointers both times to give Girard a 39-33 lead. Liberty never got closer than four points after that.
“We penetrated a gap and got a kick-out to one of our better shooters,” Hannon said. “Dylan’s as good as there is in the area. He stepped up and made big shots. Last game he was held to two [points], so I think he took it as a bit of a challenge.”
O’Hara rebounded from that first meeting with 16 points Friday night.
Hannon said his team definitely did not want to get swept by Liberty.
“It’s big for the league, it’s big for the Girard-Liberty rivalry,” he said. “That’s what we’re here playing for. You don’t want to lose to your rival, especially twice.”
Liberty coach Dan Bubon said his team’s downfall came due to a lack of offense.
“Defensively, we were fine,” he said. “You can’t come down and continually not score and not get good shots. It’s been our problem all year.
“I still like our chances in every game. When we’re good, we’re very good, and when we’re bad, it’s ugly. It’s a work in progress. We’ll get back to practice on Sunday and go play Boardman on Tuesday.”
Asim Pleas led Liberty with 16 points. He made a pair of free throws to pull the Leopards to within 36-33 with 3:23 left in the third quarter.
Midway through its regular season, Girard is in a three-way fight for the National Division title. Hannon said the next 11 games will be a big test for the Indians.
“We beat Campbell, Campbell beat LaBrae, and we still have to play LaBrae,” he said. “There’s a lot of basketball. This is all preparation for the tournament. It’s 22 games to get ready for the [Division III] tournament up at Howland.
“We’re just looking to keep getting better. I still think we’ve got a long way to go and I hope our kids keep responding and know what’s ahead of them.”