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Rally not enough as Falls beats Knights

By FRANK ACETO Associate Sports Editor Published: January 11, 2017 12:00 AM
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CUYAHOGA FALLS -- Nordonia boys basketball forced 12 turnovers in the final eight minutes vs. Cuyahoga Falls.

That helped the Knights rally from a nine-point deficit for the second time in the game.

In the end, though, it wasn't enough.

The host Black Tigers improved to 5-4 overall and 2-2 in the Suburban League National Conference after posting a 56-49 victory over Nordonia Jan. 3 at Coach Tom Jones Court.

Despite having ball-handling issues in the fourth quarter, the Black Tigers made four consecutive free throws in the last 20.1 seconds and were dominant on the boards.

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Falls had a 15-5 advantage in rebounding in the second half, including 9-3 in the final quarter.

"It was a game of runs," Black Tigers head coach Kenny Johnson said. "That's the way it's going to be when we play zone. They made a couple of threes to cut the gap and then they missed a couple of threes. We have to live with that."

Falls also overcame a 2-of-14 shooting, four-point performance in the first quarter.

Thankfully for the Black Tigers, the Knights (1-9, 0-4) also had issues.

Nordonia, which also lost to National Conference rival North Royalton 64-54 Jan. 6 in Macedonia, turned the ball over six times in the opening period and was up just 8-4.

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It appeared Falls was going to take control in the second half.

The Black Tigers went on a 9-0 run that started late in the second quarter to take a 24-15 lead early in the third period.

"Their zone gave us issues in the second quarter," Knights head coach Mike Griffen said. "We didn't get the buckets that we should have gotten in the first quarter."

But Nordonia stormed back.

The Knights followed with a 7-0 run to cut their margin to one (26-25) and took their first lead (32-31) since early in the second quarter when sophomore guard Julius Jones scored an uncontested layup after getting a steal.

Unfortunately for Nordonia, it let the game get away again.

Falls roared back with a 10-0 run that included back-to-back 3-pointers from sophomore reserve guard Dylan Ball late in the third quarter.

"I thought Dylan's shots were huge," Johnson said. "They sparked us defensively. They basically got one shot and we got the rebound."

Nonetheless, the Black Tigers continued to struggle to keep the ball in their hands and as a result, the Knights stayed in the game.

Senior guard Mike Piotrowski hit a long bank 3-pointer and then drained another 3 after a Falls' turnover from the left corner to trim the Black Tigers' advantage to three (52-49) with less than 40 seconds left.

However, senior guard Ka'Von Gainer, who struggled with his shot in the first half, knocked down both ends of a one-and-one situation and senior 6-foot-6 center Troy Tofil put it away with two more free throws with 9.7 seconds left.

Tofil led all scorers with 18 points and added a game-high 17 rebounds, including 9 offensive rebounds.

Gainer finished with 12 points and Ball added 8 points for the Black Tigers.

Piotrowski made four of Nordonia's eight 3-pointers on his way to a team-high 14 points. Jones finished with 11 points and junior forward Tye Evans had 10 points for the Knights, who have been using a smaller lineup in recent weeks. That's because Nordonia is missing senior forward Ryan Smith because of an injury.

"We've been playing small ball for now," Griffen said. "We just have to keep playing hard and do the things we coach. We have to compete night in and night out."

The Knights were scheduled to host Suburban League crossover foe Copley Jan. 10. Results were not available at press time.

They are set to entertain National Conference rival Twinsburg Jan. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

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