TALLMADGE -- Over the years, the Cuyahoga Falls boys basketball team has seen things go the opponent's way when the game was on the line.
Fortunately for the Black Tigers, things finally went their way during crunch time.
Falls improved to 7-7 overall after earning a hard-fought 49-47 victory over Suburban League crossover rival Tallmadge Jan. 24 at James O. Maddox Court.
With the loss, the Blue Devils dropped to 7-5 on the season.
"It's never easy," Black Tigers head coach Kenny Johnson said. "We had six turnovers at halftime and then we had five or six in the first four minutes of the third quarter. If we don't turn the ball over, we have a good chance to win. We've only had three games where we've had less than 20 turnovers."
Trailing by as many as seven in the second half, the Black Tigers took a 49-47 lead on a putback by 6-foot-5 senior center Troy Tofil with approximately a minute left.
Falls had chance to extend its advantage, but, as history has proven over the years, the Black Tigers struggled to put the game away.
Leading 49-47, Falls had the ball stolen, but the Blue Devils gave the ball right back to the Black Tigers seconds later.
Tallmadge couldn't force another turnover and ended up fouling Falls with 15.3 seconds left.
Once again, the Black Tigers did not lay down the hammer.
Falls missed the front end of a one-and-one situation and the Blue Devils got the rebound.
Tallmadge got the ball past midcourt and called time-out with 5 seconds left.
The Blue Devils had a shot go off the rim and senior guard Julius Lee's putback also went off the rim.
However, the Black Tigers' chance at a victory had to be delayed even longer. That's because Lee was fouled on the play with 1 second left.
Lee missed the first free throw and then purposely missed the second one for a chance at a tip-in. But his second shot did not count as Tallmadge was called for a lane violation.
Falls inbounded the ball to run out the clock.
"Our kids saw that they didn't have kids in uniform and they didn't respect the kids who were in uniform," Blue Devils head coach Mike Bluey said.
The Black Tigers led 20-15 at halftime after outscoring the Blue Devils 8-3 in the second quarter.
Tallmadge got its offense going with a 22-point third quarter. Nonetheless, Falls cut a seven-point advantage (35-28) to two thanks to a 3-pointer from the right side by junior guard Da'Quan Campbell and a putback by Tofil on back-to-back possessions.
It was nip and tuck the rest of the way as both teams struggled to find any rhythm down the stretch.
Campbell, who made his season debut during the Black Tigers' 54-47 loss to Twinsburg Jan. 20 on the road, scored 11 of his team-high 15 points in the fourth quarter. He scored all of his points in the second half.
"Da'Quan sparked us," Johnson said. "He's a hard-nosed kid who plays hard on the defensive end."
Sophomore guard Dylan Ball scored 11 of his 13 points in the first 16 minutes for Falls and Tofil finished with 12 points and nearly outrebounded the Blue Devils by himself.
Tofil had 18 rebounds as the Black Tigers had a 36-21 advantage on the glass.
"Dylan played really well for us," Johnson said. "Our two sophomores, Dylan and [guard] Daizhan Brazile started because [senior guard] Nate Vassalotti was sick. Daizhan had five assists. He's big and athletic. He helps us defensively. Nate gave us a spark off the bench."
Junior guard Matthew Francesconi, who did not attempt a single shot in the second quarter, scored 12 of his game-high 17 points in the second half for Tallmadge.
"We just wanted to stay in front of him," Johnson said of Francesconi. "We wanted to make him work for every single shot. He's a great player."
Sophomore guard Sam Seeker added 10 points for the Blue Devils, who earned a 41-34 win in the junior varsity game.
The win was much needed for Falls after a tough 54-47 loss to Suburban League National Conference rival Twinsburg Jan. 20 on the road. Junior forward Dion Davis led the Black Tigers with 11 points and senior guard Ka'Von Gainer had 9 points.
"Any road win is a good win," Johnson said. "Tallmadge is a good team."
The Black Tigers were scheduled to visit National Conference foe Brecksville-Broadview Heights Jan. 27. Results were not available at press time.
They are set to host conference rival Wadsworth Jan. 31 before heading to Hudson for a conference showdown Feb. 3. Both varsity contests are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.