MACEDONIA -- They were scrappy, gritty and resilient the entire evening.
But first-year Nordonia head boys basketball coach Mike Griffen wants something else from his players.
"We're done with moral victories," he said.
Unfortunately for Griffen and the Knights, an actual victory had to wait another day.
Despite a strong effort, Nordonia, which earned a 55-46 win over University Feb. 4 at home after losing to Suburban League National Conference rival Brecksville-Broadview Heights 66-56 on the road Feb. 3 and fell to 2-13 overall and 1-7 in the conference after suffering a 59-43 defeat to talented Stow-Munroe Falls Jan. 31 at Hugh Griffith Memorial Gymnasium in Macedonia.
The Bulldogs led much of the way, but the Knights managed to hang with their taller, better shooting opponents until it got away from them in the third quarter.
"We played well," Griffen said. "I'm not upset with the way we played."
Nordonia, which also suffered a defeat to National Conference rival Brecksville-Broadview Heights Feb. 3 on the road and a loss to Hunting Valley University Feb. 4, has a key piece back in the lineup after he missed several games with a back injury.
Six-foot-7 senior forward Ryan Smith, who returned to the court during the Knights' 44-40 win over Hudson Jan. 27 on the road, scored 6 points in limited minutes.
"Ryan helps a lot," Griffen said. "He gives us a little more balance. He can score from the perimeter and inside."
All signs of the first few minutes of the game pointed to a blowout.
Stow raced out to a 9-0 lead and then found itself in a 13-13 stalemate after a run by the Knights.
But the Bulldogs knew how to shoot themselves out of trouble.
As soon as Nordonia tied the game at 13, junior guard Coryon Rice buried a 3-pointer to give Stow the advantage again.
Rice finished with a game-high 20 points and knocked down five of the Bulldogs' eight 3-pointers.
"Nordonia is scrappy," Stow head coach Dave Close said. "They have their big kid [Smith] back and he makes a difference.
"Nordonia always makes me nervous. They've lost a lot of close games and they're a lot better than their record indicates."
Stow built its lead back to double digits again (33-22) when Rice buried a triple with less than 10 seconds in the half.
Again, the Knights managed to peck and scratch to keep the game from getting out of hand.
Junior guard Drew Petros drilled a 3 from the top of the key at the buzzer to cut Nordonia's deficit to eight (33-25).
However, the Knights couldn't keep up with the Bulldogs' perimeter shooting.
Stow made a trio of 3-pointers in the third quarter and led by as many as 18 (48-30) when 6-foot-8 junior forward Mason McMurray buried a triple.
McMurray, who was in some foul trouble in the first half, finished with 14 points and senior guard Logan Lindsay added 9 points.
"Coryon had it going and Mason McMurray knocked down a bunch of shots," Griffen said. "They made contested shots and we didn't."
Petros knocked down four 3-pointers on his way to a team-high 19 points for Nordonia. Junior forward Tye Evans contributed 7 points for the Knights.
Stow earned a 54-33 win in the junior varsity contest.
Against University, Nordonia outscored the Preppers 32-17 in the middle two quarters. Senior guard Mike Piotrowski led the Knights with 16 points. Junior forward Tye Evans led the Knights with 20 points and Smith and senior forward Luke Alders each had 11 points against Brecksville.
Nordonia is scheduled to entertain National Conference foe Cuyahoga Falls Feb. 10 before heading to North Royalton for a National Conference showdown Feb. 14. Both varsity contests are set to begin at 7:30 p.m.