HOWLAND - Before Friday night's game, Ron Price said Howland was "much better than a 1-7 team."
He was right.
He probably wishes he wasn't.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Howland’s Brendan Cope drives to the basket between Niles defenders Justin Lopes, left, and Chris Parry (10) as Kymone Gamble follows behind during the second quarter of their game on Friday night. Howland won, 80-40.
The Niles coach watched Howland, for the first time all year, look like the team that came into the season with lofty expectations. The Tigers beat their backyard rival in every facet from start to finish and cruised to an 80-40 victory.
"I think we're coming," said Howland coach Bill Bogan of his team. "I think you saw it for three quarters at Poland and against Canfield we played well enough to win."
Friday they did much more than that. Arbie Murray led the way with 25 points, 11 in an opening quarter that ended with the hosts in front 21-13. Brendan Cope was brilliant, finishing with 22 points, a career-best 18 rebounds, and six assists. John-Mark Weisman had 12 points and four steals. Freshman point guard Reece Bogan had a dozen points, 10 boards and four assists.
Howland, which improved to 2-2 in the All-American Conference, American Division, shot 52 percent from the field and made 10 of 23 3-pointers. The Tigers held a commanding 52-32 advantage on the glass. Defensively, the hosts held the Dragons (6-4, 2-1) to 23-percent shooting. Niles made just 5 of 25 3-pointers and 3 of 10 foul shots.
Price said his team's shooting woes were not to blame for the outcome.
"Even if we played our best tonight it wouldn't have mattered," he said. "Give Howland all the credit. We knew they were good. We knew they'd play their best game of the year because of the rivalry.
"They shot it real well, they rebounded real well and they finished. The Cope kid was tremendous. The Murray kid was tremendous. And their guards can all shoot."
While Murray's start was great, Cope's might have been better. The senior had three points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals in the opening eight minutes.
"It's a big rivalry," Cope said. "We don't like them very much and they don't like us very much."
The 6-foot-2 senior added that the Tigers are poised to turn their season around.
"We had a lot of early injuries and a lot of freshmen playing so we had to get used to each other," Cope said. "We finally have our three seniors (Murray and Weisman being the others) back and healthy."
The Tigers returned most of their players from last year's squad which finished 14-8. Bogan said injuries and some lack of leadership early in the season contributed to the dismal start. The pieces appear to be coming together at the midway point of the season.
"I think John-Mark Weisman made some great strides in the communication area tonight," Bogan said. "We needed that to happen."
The Tigers steadily increased their lead every quarter. Howland led 39-20 at halftime and 60-33 heading to the final frame.
James Tate paced Niles with eight points and six steals while Chris Parry added seven points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.