MARION — Marion Harding overcame a slow start and put together a huge first-half run to pick up a 51-31 win over Galion on Thursday evening.
The Presidents (7-4, 5-3 Mid Ohio Athletic Conference) trailed 6-2 in the first quarter, but then manufactured a 21-0 run to take a commandaing 23-6 lead midway through the second period. Harding took advantage of 15 Galion turnovers to build a 31-12 halftime cushion.
The Tigers put together a solid second half, essentially playing even with the home side, but couldn’t overcome the large halftime deficit.
“I thought we moved the ball well early and I thought we attacked the glass — those are effort things — but we just didn’t shoot well,” Harding coach Don Worstell said in regard to his team’s first-half performance. “We missed a lot of shots right at the rim. So we challenged them to concentrate better. But, really, what changed things was when we started to make a few shots and were able to get into the press.”
Wes Stokes paced Harding with a game-high 20 points. His stat line included five rebounds, two steals, and two blocked shots.
“He’s a very good player and he’s just scratching the surface of what we think he’s going to be,” Worstell said. “He’s extremely hard to guard. You’ve seen how athletic he is and how explosive he is offensively. He handles it pretty well and he’s a good passer. I thought he played a really good game.”
Caden Morris added 14 points and nine rebounds. Riley Keeran had seven points and Payne Ratliff came off the bench to contribute five points.
Galion (0-9, 0-6 MOAC) was playing its first game in 22 days. The last time the Tigers took the floor was Dec. 29, 2020, against local rival Northmor.
“I thought we played fairly well, considering we’ve been out of it the past few weeks,” Galion coach Bobby Gossom said. “I thought we came out and we had two really good quarters. We had one really bad quarter — the second quarter hurt us. But I tought overall we played pretty solid for three quarters.”
Carter Keinath led Galion with 11 points, scoring eight in the first half. He’s missed much of the season due to illness, but turned in a stellar performance on Thursday.
“Carter is still trying to get back into it,” Gossom said. “Prior to this, he’s been out, it seems like forever. He started the season quarantined and then got quarantined again. It’s tough in basketball to get into a rhythm when you miss so much time.”
Andy Sparks hit a pair of 3-pointers and finished with six points. He collected four rebounds.
Rece Payne — who’s been plagued by injury off and on — and Troy Manring each scored five points. Brayden Eckels had four points and five rebounds.
“Having Rece back really helps us out,” Gossom said. “He’s the point guard and sets the tone for us and controls the tempo of the game. He helps us to cut down on turnovers and having him on the floor puts everybody in their natural positions.”
Hanif Donaldson missed Thursday’s game, which left the Tigers shorthanded once again. Between quarantine and injury, the full roster has never been available at the same time.
“We’ve never had our full squad together for a practice or a game so far this season,” Gossom said. “When you’re just trying to get into a flow and a rhythm, that really affects us.”
Galion travels to Clear Fork on Saturday and then returns home to face Pleasant on Jan. 26.
Harding plays host to Tiffin Columbian on Saturday.
Follow @GalionInquirer on Twitter.