WARREN - Friday night's Lake Erie League matchup between Warren G. Harding and Shaw was reminiscent of a tug of war.
For the Cardinals, their anchor was Zachary Whiteside, who scored 19 of his 25 points in the first half as the Cardinals took a five-point lead into the locker room. At the end of Harding's rope stood Shondell Jackson, who scored 18 of his game high 27 points in the second half.
At the end of the night, it was the Raiders' defense that made the key stops in crunch time as Harding held on for a 60-56 victory.
Despite the big offensive output by Jackson, he was mostly proud of his play at the other end of the floor.
"Playing defense," Jackson said when asked about the biggest difference in the game. "We knew that we had to play hard defense and execute on the other end, and we did just enough tonight."
Harding's defense sparked an 8-1 run to open the second half. For the night, Harding forced 25 turnovers, which included 11 steals. The biggest of the night was by senior Jautice McDonald, who stole a Shaw pass in the backcourt and drove to the basket for two points to give the Raiders a 54-53 lead with 2:59 remaining in the game.
Shaw coach Steve Chandler recognized Harding's adjustments in the second half.
"When they spread the floor on us, they got everybody out of the paint and were able to drive on us in the fourth quarter," Chandler said. "Also, we gave up the ball too many times down the stretch, which really hurt us."
The physical presence on Whiteside was something Harding coach Andy Vlajkovich knew he had to have late in the game, and he knew exactly who was the man for the job.
"Shondell has been a lockdown defender for us all year," Vlajkovich said. "He's pretty much guarded every team's best player, and with his size, he can cause problems for posts and he's athletic enough to do the same to guards. He's also talented enough to do it offensively as well, so I was really proud of the way that he led us out there tonight."
The big night defensively couldn't have come at a better time for the Raiders as they travel to Canton Timken tonight. While Harding is the only school in Ohio that has defeated Timken in each of the last five seasons, the Trojans are currently ranked in the top 12 in Ohio. As big as Friday night's win was, Vlajkovich knows his players will need to play a lot better in order to push their streak to six.
"Timken is really, really good," Vlakovich said. "They just got a big win over St. Ignatius, so they're battle tested. Our players need to get some rest and be ready to bounce back and play even better than they did tonight. That's what it will take to get a big victory in the Fieldhouse."
Harding sophomore Shakem Johnson had a solid all-around night with 12 points, nine rebounds and four steals. Jarelle Johnson and King Garner both finished with 10 points for the Raiders.