Niles closes with win over Howland
NILES — A season that was mostly void of wins had Niles McKinley High School basketball coach Doug Foster searching for a silver lining during the final week of the regular season.
Foster may have found what he was looking for with a pair of victories over neighboring schools.
The Red Dragons on Friday closed out the regular season with a 42-36 home win over arch-rival Howland. The victory came just three days after the Dragons earned a road win over Mineral Ridge.
“Man, we were looking to end the season on a positive note, and what better way to do it than with a win over Howland,” Foster said. “The atmosphere here was tremendous. It’s what we’ve been looking for. Fans on both sides were loud. The cheerleaders from both sides were really going at it. It was just a fun, high school basketball setting.”
Niles and Howland both enter the tournament with a record of 5-17.
Joe Wolfe and Doug Foster, the coach’s son, each scored 13 points to lead Niles in scoring. A.I. Fryer added seven points for the Red Dragons.
Howland was paced by Justin Jones (10 points) and Anthony Massucci (nine).
Trailing 22-18 at the break, Howland had multiple opportunities to climb back on top as the Tigers owned the boards in the third period. However, offensive rebounds only resulted in missed shots for the visitors.
“That third quarter, we just couldn’t put the ball in the hoop,” Howland coach Dan Bubon said. “We missed a ton of shots within five feet and those misses were our own fault. We were trying to go 100 miles an hour at points when we needed to just gain our poise and finish things off.”
Howland begins tournament play Tuesday at Ursuline — a team it lost to by seven earlier this year.
Niles travels to Poland for a first-round game.
“We know we can compete with them,” Foster said. “It’s not a bad match-up for us. We just have to play hard like we did tonight and play mistake-free. If we do that, we’ll be in the game.”