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Tough finish for Raiders
March 15, 2010 - Ed Puskas
A couple of months ago, Warren G. Harding's boys basketball team looked like a lock for another district championship. The Raiders had just crushed Cleveland St. Ignatius in Warren, and the Wildcats -- by most accounts -- figured to be Harding's toughest foe in the Solon sectional-district.
But then Raiders coach Steve Arnold had to dismiss point guard Fred Williams from the team. That was a key loss, but one Harding might have been able to overcome. Even though the Raiders lost twice in the final week of the regular season, the team had enough time to deal with Williams' absence down the stretch.
What the Raiders were ultimately unable to overcome was the loss of Angel Gonzalez, their other team leader and returning starter from last season's state semifinal team. Gonzalez tore his ACL in practice a few days before a district semifinal against Garfield Heights.
Harding was able to win that game in double-overtime even without Gonzalez, but when St. Ignatius came out and played a much better game in the district final than it had in Warren a few weeks ago, the Raiders had no answer. Kennis White and the rest of the team played hard, but the Wildcats played as well as they could have played in avenging that earlier defeat.
It certainly wasn't the way Arnold, the Raiders or Harding fans wanted the season to play out, but that's why last year's state tournament run remains so special. It's not easy to get to Columbus, even without off-the-court problems and injuries becoming a factor. Remember two years ago, when an official's blown call in a regional final against Lakewood St. Edward cost Harding a state-tournament berth.
It's not what Harding fans want to hear, but they'll just have to take solace in the fact Arnold has the program in good position moving forward.
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