Howard’s return revives Wolves
PORTAGE — The return of Ray Howard to the lineup spelled an end to Michigan City’s six-game skid Friday.
The Wolves’ 6-foot-7 senior center, out sick for three contests, looked like his old self, racking up 23 points and eight rebounds to power City (8-10, 1-3) past Portage 74-52 in a Duneland Athletic Conference game.
“I wasn’t feeling too good. It was hard to catch my breath. I was coughing,” said Howard, who’s still fighting some chest congestion. “I’m feeling better. I felt like I had more energy. Coming off a losing streak, I wanted to come back and get a win, help the team get back on track.”
Howard shot 10-of-14 from the field with a pair of dunks and keyed the Wolves’ dominance on the glass, where they doubled up the Indians (8-10, 0-4). Three consecutive putback baskets in the second quarter, two of them by Howard, touched off a 10-0 run that enabled City to separate from a 12-11 score and pull away.
“It does not hurt to have (number) 25 back,” M.C. coach John Boyd said. “He’s one of the better big guys in the conference. He’s definitely a difference maker. You can’t be playing with that (health) stuff. You’ve got to take care of the kids first. We had to grow up (without him).”
City used a zone trap and a run-and-jump to turn Portage over 20 times, fueling its transition game. Back-to-back hoops off steals sent the Wolves to the half up 28-16 and the margin never fell to single digits again.
“Defense set the tone,” Boyd said. “That’s how you win games. We mixed things up. We used our speed and quickness. We got our hands on some balls, caused some errant passes. They got frustrated and started settling for jump shots. Our defense created offensive opportunities. We were able to get comfortable. We had runs, we sustained them and stifled theirs.”
Jaivion Reid (14 points, six rebounds), bouncy freshman Jevon France (13 points, seven rebounds) and Dez’Mand Hawkins (11 points) all backed Howard with double-digit scoring. City countered its 16 turnovers by shooting 55 percent.
″(France) was very active,” Boyd said. “A lot of kids were getting involved. We got good production from some of the young guys. We’ve still got a lot of maturing to do. Unforced turnovers are still an enemy of ours. This team is very unpredictable. Hopefully, we can continue to play steady and give us a chance to win some games.”
The win extended Michigan City’s string of victories over Portage to eight, dating back to the 2012-13 season. Boyd’s teams have not lost in seven games at the Indians’ gym, dating back to 2009, a good sign considering Portage hosts the sectional.
“I was telling our coaches, we’ve always felt good playing at Portage,” Boyd said. “It’s a good gym for us. We feel comfortable.”
Londen Harris’ 19 points for Portage topped all scorers.
Michigan City 74, Portage 52
Four Wolves scored in double figures.