WARREN - You might have thought the 3-point prowess that was such a big part of the Warren G. Harding Raiders' attack last season would have lost something when Jesse Hardin took off for Walsh University.
Apparently some of the returning players took good notes. It's still early in the season, but the Raiders are showing an ability to win on the strength of long-distance shooting.
The Raiders struggled in falling behind to East Cleveland Shaw early, but they warmed up from the outside and proceeded to win the Lake Erie League game, 51-46, here Tuesday. Harding (4-1) made two fewer field goals than the Cardinals, but it had an 8-1 advantage from beyond the 3-point arc.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Warren G. Harding’s Anthony Bell soars past Shaw’s Zachary Whiteside, below, for a basket during second-half action. Harding won, 51-46.
Mik'quan Dorsey and Anthony Bell both made three 3-pointers, while Greg Jackson and Tommy Perry each made one. It was enough to subdue a determined effort by the Cardinals, who are winless in five games.
"We were in this game the whole way," Cardinals coach Steve Chandler said. "It was one we let slip away. Warren Harding definitely killed us with the 3s. They were steady with the 3s from the second quarter on."
Harding played like a team that was thinking about Christmas break in the first quarter, managing just seven points. Trailing 13-7, the Raiders didn't reach double digits in points until Perry made a 3-point shot with 3:40 remaining in the second period.
Osha Jackson then made a fielder and Bell connected on a pair of 3-point shots as the Raiders rallied to take a 20-18 halftime lead.
"We weren't real crisp yesterday in practice," Raiders coach Andy Vlajkovich said. "We had been up until that point. I understand that when you're dealing with 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids you're going to have interest levels peak. We're the kind of team, because of youth and learning on the fly, where we can't take any days off. We always have to be sharp in practice."
Bell came off the bench to lead the Raiders in scoring with 17 points, while Dorsey finished with 13. Vlajkovich was ecstatic with the board work of point guard King Garner, who pulled down a team-high 11 missed shots. Garner is averaging nine rebounds a game.
Vlajkovich's goal after a poor defensive effort in a win over Sharon last Saturday was to work on that end of the game. He saw some improvement, most notably in the play of Greg Jackson, but not enough.
The Raiders struggled in containing guard Thomas Austin, who led all scorers with 21 points. Most of his points came on drives to the basket.
"We struggled to stay in front of people," Vlajkovich said. "It's hard to simulate that kind of quickness in practice and how to guard those kinds of guys. We've giving up dribble penetration all year. It hasn't killed us killed us. There will come a day when it does hurt us; it hurt us last Friday (in a loss to Euclid)."
The Raiders made just four fielders in the third period, but all were from 3-point territory two by Dorsey and one each by Greg Jackson and Bell. It was enough to give Harding a 32-29 lead.
The Raiders stretched their lead to eight points in the early part of the final quarter, but the Cardinals scored nine of the next 10 points to tie the score at 40. The score was tied again at 42 when Dorsey made a jumper and Bell drove for a layup following a steal. Greg Jackson then made two free throws to put Harding comfortably ahead, 48-42.
The Raiders are 2-1 in the demanding LEL.
"Anybody can beat anybody in this league," Vlajkovich said. "You have to come to work every day."