SOLON - It took about 90 minutes for the Howland Tigers girls' basketball team to take care of business in an 84-18 win over Cleveland John Adams Feb. 26.
The Tigers now have a week to look ahead to a meeting Thursday with Twinsburg in a district semifinal game involving the top seeded teams in the tournament.
"We kind of knew this summer, and Twinsburg knew that we would probably play this game," Howland coach John Diehl said after the rout of John Adams at Solon High School. "The Twinsburg coaches and myself said that we were eventually going to meet."
Twinsburg (18-3) is seeded first in the district. The Tigers are 22-0 and seeded second.
Both teams showed why they deserve the lofty rankings. Like Howland, Twinsburg was dominant in moving on with a 74-19 win over Garfield Heights in the first game last night.
Twinsburg has a talented 6-foot-4 freshman in Malina Howard, but that doesn't mean Howland will have to focus solely on her.
"Their guards give a lot of pressure up front," Diehl said. "They love to shoot the 3-pointer. They've probably shot more 3-pointers than any team we've played. We scrimmaged them this year and played them in the summer league, and in the summer league we did real well against them and in the scrimmage we did real well. If they're off on their 3-pointers, we'll win. If they're connecting on their 3s, it could be a long night."
It was anything but a long night for the Tigers in their rout of the Rebels. Howland scored the first nine points and 18 of the first 20 on the way to a 25-6 lead after the first quarter.
Diehl substituted freely throughout. No matter which combination he put on the floor, the Tigers scored with ease.
"We came out strong in the first quarter," Diehl said. "Everyone was hustling. I was happy with that because I didn't want them to think it wasn't going to be a game tonight. I want them to be ready to go next week when we play Twinsburg. I don't like running scores up on teams, and I didn't want to get to 100, but you can't tell the 14th or 15th girl not to hustle."
Senior Kelly Barzak led the scoring parade for the Tigers with 33 points, including 14 in the first period. Barzak connected on 13 shots from the floor and was 7-of-9 from the foul line.
Freshman Taylor Williams added 15 points for the Tigers. Erika Nites, also a freshman, finished with 11 points.
Howland scored 24 points in the second quarter before a fielder by John Adams' Chanel Davis, who scored 11 points. The Tigers, who led 51-8 at halftime, scored the final 19 points of the third quarter after allowing a fielder by Tashira Brantley to open the stanza.
Despite leading 70-10 through three quarters, Diehl kept his starters in at times in the fourth quarter to give them valuable time on the floor.
"I've always been a firm believer, especially at tournament time, that the more familiar you are with the floor, the more comfortable you are," Diehl said. "That's why I don't like taking a bye. I want to get on the floor as many times as I can before playing one of the seeded teams."
Diehl made sure to remind the players afterwards that the easy part of the tournament road has come to an end. It gets serious next week.
"I told the seniors that this is our last night to have fun," he said. "Starting Thursday it's going to be tough from here on out."