WADSWORTH — Two young teams in search of their first wins of the season did battle Tuesday at Coach Shadkey Court in Wadsworth.
Following a festive-colored contest between Wadsworth red and Nordonia green, it was the Grizzlies who were left feeling like grinches after the game.
A big first half paved the way to the first win of the Dominique Sanders Era for Nordonia, as the Knights scored a 52-38 win at Wadsworth to improve to 1-3, 1-2 in the Suburban League National Conference.
Sanders noted much of what had ailed the Knights early in the season flipped vs. the Grizzlies. Nordonia won the turnover battle 19-9 and recorded 13 assists in the win.
"We talked all week about just playing free," Sanders said. "In the end, it’s just basketball. I love the way that we compete and feel we’ve got the size to play with anyone."
Meanwhile, there was nothing but frustration from Grizzlies coach Mike Moser, as Wadsworth dropped to 0-3.
"You’ve got to value every possession like it’s the last one of the ballgame," Moser said. "We didn’t take care of the ball tonight, whether it was committing turnovers or taking a shot, as opposed to the right shot. They scored those points in bunches."
So far this season, Nordonia’s shooting has been colder than the December air, as Sanders noted his team hit "maybe three" 3-pointers all year heading into the Wadsworth game.
Beginning late in the first quarter, the Knights found that elusive shooting touch, hitting six 3-pointers in the first half alone.
Ignited by a pair of 3-pointers from Owen Licht and Jon Henderson, the Knights closed the first quarter on a 12-0 run to take a 13-5 lead after one quarter.
In the second quarter, Nordonia looked the way Sanders envisioned his team from the start, as the Knights’ tried to run after nearly rebound and steal.
It didn’t hurt that the Knights hit four more from downtown in the quarter, outscoring the Grizzlies 20-10 in the second quarter to lead 33-15 after one half.
Forward Josh Malone was one of five Knights to hit a 3-pointer in the game, finishing with a team-high 12 points.
Wadsworth did come out firing after halftime as Alex Risher hit a 3-pointer in the corner to help the Grizzlies open the quarter on an 8-3 run.
Foul trouble mounted quickly for both teams in the third quarter, but the Gizzlies were able to fight through it, cutting the lead to 38-28 after three quarters.
"It got stagnant there in the third quarter," Sanders said. "It shows something that we could come back from scoring five points in a quarter and close it out."
Wadsworth got as close as nine points early in the fourth, but the Knights helped close the game out with success in another area that previously had been a weakness — free-throw shooting.
Point guard Anthony Lee nailed two straight one-and-one situations to help push the lead back to double digits for the Knights. Lee finished with a season-high 10 points on the night.
"Anthony Lee is a guy that has the ball on a string and can score," Sanders said. "Those free throws were big for us."
Nordonia finished 14-of-19 from the line, including 7-of-8 in the fourth quarter to pull away from the Grizzlies. Wadsworth shot 5-of-6 from the line, but took only two free throws in the fourth quarter.
Up by as many as 16 points late, Nordonia ran an effective four corners drill to run out the clock.
"They definitely shot much better tonight than they have this year," Moser said of the Knights. "A lot of that is on us. We had a lot of breakdowns on defense and our help-side [defense] was nowhere to be found."
Freshman Soloman Callaghan was the lone Grizzly in double figures with 12 points.