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Raiders hold off Warriors late

Feb. 6—MIDDLETOWN — When it comes to scoring, sometimes timing is everything.

Despite early struggles from the 3-point line — including a stretch of seven straight misses — Shenandoah connected from long range at key moments, and Hayden Hubbard scored all four of his points from the free-throw line with the game on the line as the Raiders held on for a 40-36 Mid-Eastern Conference win over Wes-Del.

With the win, Shenandoah improved to 9-8 overall and 5-1 in the MEC, staying within one game of frontrunner Wapahani.

Wes-Del dropped to 5-11 overall and 3-5 in the conference.

After a strong start — mostly on the interior — yielded a 12-4 second-quarter lead for the Raiders, the home team suddenly started settling for 3-point shots, allowing Wes-Del to score seven straight points and pull within one.

But, after an 0-for-9 start, Jonny Howard delivered the team's first successful try, sending Shenandoah to the locker room with a 15-11 lead.

"In the first half, we shot 12 twos and 10 threes," Raiders coach Rick Ellsworth said. "I'm not the smartest guy, but play the percentages. On the season, our shooters haven't been making shots, and if I'm playing us ... I'd play zone all day and make us shoot threes."

A back-and-forth third quarter saw Wes-Del take its first lead. A.J. Demick put the Raiders back on top with a 3-pointer of his own — Shenandoah was 3-for-7 in the second half behind the line — but a score from Josiah Love put the Warriors on top 24-22 as the fourth quarter began.

Senior Haygen Tomlinson said that was the time for the Raiders to get focused.

"We said not to give up, play through every whistle," he said. "I could definitely tell the energy was high and that everyone was playing together and wanted to win."

After a steal by Cannon Case to open the period, Demick connected from 3-point range for the second time, putting Shenandoah on top for good at 25-24. Tomlinson followed with a basket, then assisted on a Case score and capped a 9-0 Raiders run with a pair of free throws for a 31-21 lead.

Tomlinson led Shenandoah with nine points and topped all players with nine rebounds.

"When that dude wants a rebound, it's hard to go against him," Ellsworth said. "When he goes up — and he's not a high-riser, either — he's just strong."

That run did not put away the Warriors, who battled back and closed within 33-32 on a Love 3-point basket, steal and layup.

But Howard — just moments before fouling out — made his second 3-point basket for a little extra breathing room.

With 18 seconds left, Hubbard was fouled and — despite not scoring previously — calmly sank both free throws for a five-point lead and did likewise with 10.4 seconds left and a two-point lead to seal the win.

"When I got to the line, I was kind of nervous, but we practice them all the time," Hubbard said. "That's really been my strong suit this year, and I got up there and I tried to put myself in a position like in practice."

"When we subbed Howard out because he fouled out, I subbed Hubbard in because he's only missed one free throw this season," Ellsworth said. "He knows I have confidence in him. We all have confidence in him."

Hubbard is now 14-of-15 from the free-throw line this season.

Howard added eight points for the Raiders.

Shenandoah will travel to Lapel to face the Bulldogs on Friday night before returning home — and to MEC competition — Saturday evening for a date with Randolph Southern.

Shenandoah routed Wes-Del 46-28 in the junior varsity contest, and the Raiders were led by Maddux Davis with 10 points.

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.