Howland’s big three do their jobs as Tigers top Harding
By BOB ETTINGER
Everyone has a role to fill on the Howland girls basketball team. Alex Ochman has to be a presence in the paint, Gabby Hartzell is the spark and Mackenzie Maze fills whatever gaps need filled in the heat of the moment.
All three did exactly as asked and Howland pulled away from Harding for a 51-34 victory Wednesday night at Howland High School.
Hartzell scored on a drive, Maze knocked home a 3-pointer from the top of the key and Hartzell came through on a jumper as the Tigers (15-4, 8-2 in All-American Conference Red Tier) turned a slim 16-14 advantage into a 23-14 midway through the second.
“[Hartzell] can do that,” Howland coach John Diehl said. “She’s a streak shooter and she can get to the hoop. At halftime, we had an 11-point lead and they only beat us by one in the third. I said all we had to do was just keep playing hard. [Harding] is scary. They can get to the basket and they can make some shots.”
The Raiders (10-6, 5-6) couldn’t cut into that deficit enough to turn the tide the rest of the way.
“Once they got that lead, we felt we needed to change what we were doing rather than just execute better,” Harding coach Frank Caputo said. “We spread out and that made their defense easier to play for them. We needed to execute better and we didn’t do a good job of that tonight.”
Ochman led the Tigers with 16 points and grabbed 20 rebounds, Hartzell had 15 points, five rebounds and a steal and Maze chipped in with 12 points, 11 boards, six assists and a pair of steals.
“I’m the point guard,” Maze said. “I’m supposed to pick up what we’re lacking. It’s teamwork. We have to work together and get each other’s backs.”
The Tigers found Ochman to the tune of nine first-period points. Howland led, 9-3, just more than three minutes into the contest and eventually held a 16-7 advantage following a triple from Hartzell with 1:34 remaining in the first.
“We were just making hard cuts,” Ochman said. “We were passing the ball really fast and when we do that, it creates more opening shots. And I just had to box out hard.”
Said Hartzell: “I think [Alex] was just breaking hard. That’s her job on that specific play. We’re told that if she’s open, get the ball to her. She’s told if she’s open in the paint, shoot the ball.”
Harding used an advantage on the offensive boards to chip away at the deficit. Kamarah Bender netted a bucket and Brayleonna Woods was good on her own 3-pointer as the Raiders closed the first down, 16-12. Diamond Phillips’ two free throws with 6:45 to play in the first half had Harding within two, 16-14.
“We gave up way too many offensive rebounds to them,” Caputo said. “They showed they wanted the ball more than we did. Then we buckled down and we got back to fighting for the ball.”
Woods (3 rebounds, 3 steals) and Bender (6 rebounds, 3 steals) each scored 10 points to pace the Raiders and Indea Phillips (3 points) grabbed 10 rebounds.