GALION — Marion Harding finally opened its 2020-2021 season on Thursday and the Presidents took advantage of the chance to play, defeating Galion, 60-25.
“We were just so excited to play,” Harding coach Don Worstell said. “Preseason is long anyway and then right when you’re getting ready to start the whole team gets quarantined for two weeks. You get concerned about conditioning. You want to keep kids engaged and moving forward together. We did daily Zoom (calls), an hour and a half every day. A lot of chalk talk and going through the playbook. You can accomplish some there. There’s some basketball education, some learning that happens, but there’s no practical experience, no conditioning.
‘That was my biggest fear tonight, was our level of conditioning. We got a great contribution from all of our team. Every kid played a lot and we were able to get by. We’ve got a week now before we play again, so, hopefully, we can regain some of our conditioning before we go again.”
Junior Payne Ratliff led the Presidents (1-0, 1-0 Mid Ohio Athletic Conference) with 15 points and senior Devin Bonney pumped in 11 points to pace the attack. Senior Ayden Rich and junior Wes Stokes each chipped in eight points, and senior Caden Morris and junior Amare Pedraza each added six points. Junior TeSean Jefferson, senior James Netters, and sophomore Caden Jones each scored two points.
Galion (0-3, 0-2 MOAC) was shorthanded — only seven players in uniform — entering the contest with junior point guard Rece Payne and senior forward Brayden Eckels sidelined by ankle injuries and senior forward Carter Keinath wrapping up a quarantine period. The Tigers roster got even thinner when senior guard Troy Manring went down with a left ankle injury near the end of the first quarter and did not return to the game.
“It’s just something we have to deal with,” Galion coach Bobby Gossom said. “Everybody is dealing with the (COVID-19) issues and the injury bug hit us, so it’s just another thing we had get to through. Hopefully, it makes us stronger.”
Galion junior Jaxon Oswald came off the bench to lead the Tigers in scoring with eight points. Oswald knocked down two long 3-point field goals in the second quarter.
Classmate Hanif Donaldson scored six points and collected a team-high seven rebounds. Junior Andy Sparks added five points, hitting a triple in the third period.
Senior Caleb Branstetter chipped in two points and six rebounds. Manring and junior Kyle Foust each had two points.
Under heavy pressure from the Marion Harding defense, Galion turned the ball over 24 times. Harding had 10 steals, led by Rich with five.
“We struggle offensively. We’re not great at putting the ball in the hoop,” Gossom said. “We definitely missed Rece Payne. He’s kind of our go-to option, but it’s next man up. He was out and then Troy went out. Who’s going to step up? We just talked about that. We could sit around and feel sorry for ourselves or we can go out and do something about it.”
Gossom said Payne and Eckels are expected to miss Saturday’s scheduled home game against Clear Fork. He was unsure about Manring’s status following his injury. Keinath was due to be released from quarantine on Friday.
“They’re a tough bunch. They get after it and they play hard,” Gossom said about his ballclub. “We’ve just got to keep working on things and fixing what we need to fix. We’ve got to play our game and get other teams to play our game instead of them dictating everything we do. That’s our biggest problem right now.”
Richland County’s second consecutive week at Level 4 (purple) on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus forced Clear Fork to cancel games against Lexington and River Valley that were scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
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