SOLON - As so often happens in the high school basketball tournaments, a great regular season can give way to the power of a stronger force.
The Howland Tigers girls' team rolled to the semifinals of the Division I district tournament with a 22-0 record. The cruise came to an abrupt end when the Tigers ran into the powerful Twinsburg Tigers, who advanced to the district final with a 65-43 win.
Twinsburg (19-3) showed why it deserved the top seed. Its three losses were to powers Regina, Hathaway Brown and Mount Notre Dane. Howland did its best to keep the score close, but the strength of 6-foot-4 freshman Malina Howard and a solid all-around game proved to be an insurmountable challenge.
"Their pressure was a little better than I thought it would be, to tell you the truth, and Howard was a lot better than I thought she would be on the block," Howland coach John Diehl said. "She had 25 points, and we couldn't keep her off the boards."
Twinsburg was in control from the start. It opened an 18-6 lead after the first quarter and took a 35-18 advantage into the locker room at halftime.
Howland wasn't able to make a strong run in the second half. Twinsburg answered every challenge in advancing to the district final Saturday against Shaker Heights, which was a 53-48 winner over Warren G. Harding in the second semifinal game. That game was after press time.
"We would have had to play a really good game," Diehl said. "We didn't handle the pressure as well as I thought we might. I had no clue that Howard would do that to us. I thought we would contain her a little bit, but we didn't contain her at all."
Include Diehl among those that think Twinsburg can make a deep run along the tournament trail. There aren't many weaknesses to speak of concerning its game.
"I always felt that Twinsburg and McKinley are the two best teams in Northeast Ohio," Diehl said. "Twinsburg has a great shot at going (to state)."
Lauren Macer added 12 points to Twinsburg's scoring.
As was the case for most of the season, Kelly Barzak led Howland's scoring with 14 points. The Tigers weren't able to get their offense on track with any consistency.
While it was a disappointing end to the tournament run, Howland can look ahead to a bright future. There are several underclassmen returning with the skill level needed to make more trips to the district level.
"We had some freshmen that it was their first big-game experience, and I thought they did pretty well," Diehl said. "We'll be back. We accomplished a lot this year that I didn't think this team could."