WARREN - On some nights, a 25-point win for the Warren G. Harding Raiders would be reason enough for a trip to one of the area's fine restaurants for a late-night meal.
Saturday wasn't one of those nights. The only trip Raiders coach Andy Vlajkovich had planned after a 75-52 win over the Boardman Spartans was back on the court for some extra practice time.
To say Vlajkovich wasn't pleased with the Raiders' effort is an understatement. You really didn't need to hear him voice his displeasure after the game to understand the level of his disappointment. You could see it in his body language as he paced the bench area with the concerned look of an expectant father.
Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
Warren G. Harding’s King Garner, right, goes for a steal against Boardman’s Preston Stitt. The Raiders beat the Spartans, 75-52.
"We set out for certain goals," Vlajkovich said. "Our theme is: We don't play to a score; we play to a standard. We did not meet the standard tonight."
Vlajkovich wanted to point out that his displeasure in no way should take away from the determined effort of the Spartans, who played better than their 1-6 record would indicate. Boardman hustled for loose balls and did as well as could be expected in rebounding despite giving up considerable size.
"Boardman's kids played really hard," Vlajkovich said. "I told (Spartans coach) Pat (Birch) before the game how hard their kids play. He's got them playing really hard, and we didn't play very hard at all. We looked very disinterested and kind of got a wake-up call and kind of looked good for six or seven minutes.
"Unacceptable effort; unacceptable start. But that's not to take away from what those (Boardman) guys did."
Vlajkovich had no idea how long the extra practice would last, other than to estimate it would go on as long as it took to get his point across.
"I told them, 'We're going to get better today. You're either going to do it at 7:30 or 9:30.' We were flat, and we were lethargic."
One bright spot for the 3-1 Raiders was the play of sophomore Shakem Johnson, who scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. The 6-5 Johnson echoed Vlajkovich's remarks about the need to put together a more complete effort.
"We could have played better on the defensive end, and we could have taken care of the ball more," Johnson said.
The only spurt that might have brought a slight smile to Vlajkovich's face came after the Spartans had turned a 13-8 deficit following one quarter into an 18-13 lead. Realizing they were in for more than they had bargained for, the Raiders went on a 14-2 run to take a 27-20 halftime lead.
Harding scored the first two field goals of the third quarter to lead 31-20. The Raiders took a 46-34 lead into the fourth period and were never challenged in the final session.
Anthony Bell came off the bench to score 18 points for the Raiders. Jarelle Johnson had 13 points, and Shondell Jackson finished with 11.
Sophomore Gannon Murray showed promise by coming off the bench to score a team-high 13 points for the Spartans. Preston Stitt added 10.
Vlajkovich's concern is directed at the near future. The Raiders host Warrensville Heights in a Lake Erie League game Friday and play at Cleveland St. Ignatius the next night.
"We go into the meat of our schedule," Vlajkovich said. "Our theme over Christmas break is: you're either getting better or you're getting worse. I told them you're going to get better today in some way, shape or form."
That might have meant burning the midnight oil.