This season’s edition of the Walsh Jesuit Holiday Classic was laden with plenty of good news for the Cuyahoga Falls girls basketball team.
One of the program’s biggest wins in recent history was coupled with some big-time heroics by standout junior Chelsea Huffman.
A 5-foot-10 guard, Huffman put an exclamation point on an already successful career in the action at nearby Walsh Dec. 29.
Huffman and the Lady Black Tigers answered a miracle in the second day of action of the event by burying not one, but two three-point bombs in the final nine seconds of action.
The latter of those pair of 3-point buckets by Huffman was a game-winner with only 2.5 seconds to play to propel Falls to a thrilling 53-52 non-league win over Chagrin Falls Kenston.
That victory over Kenston was one of the biggest in recent memory, but Huffman’s heroics nearly overshadowed the optics of the huge win for Falls (6-5).
"It was a crazy night," said Falls head coach Joe Nowak.
"I mean back-to-back threes in just a matter of seconds — that was incredible, but it was a great team win and there were so many big plays by a lot of kids," he added.
With nine ticks left, Huffman banked in a triple to slice the Bomber lead to 52-50.
Then junior Abby Englehart made one of the biggest plays of her career for the Black Tigers as the forward-guard stole the ensuing inbounds pass by Kenston.
Englehart’s theft led to a Falls timeout and then Huffman drilled a step-back three-pointer from the left wing with 2.5 ticks left to nail the game winner in the consolation matchup.
"Abby had a huge steal and it was just one of a series of little things on the court that became big plays," said Nowak.
Nowak also pointed to undersized sophomore wing Emma Brustoski, who had a critical blocked shot and chased down a loose ball to secure an important possession late in the win.
The win over Kenston came in the consolation game of Walsh Jesuit Holiday Classic because Falls lost the Dec. 27 in a first-round game to the host school.
Falls went to overtime with Walsh Jesuit (6-6) before losing 62-57, as the Warriors outscored Falls 10-5 in a tough overtime period.
Huffman exploded for a career-high 35 points in the loss to Walsh and also canned a career high seven threes in the game. She pumped in 27 points against Kenston.
"Obviously, Chelsea was outstanding and had a big weekend, but we needed big plays from others too," said Nowak.
Nowak loved the big team victory over Kenston (9-3), a Bomber squad that reached Ohio’s Sweet 16 in Division I and tallied 18 wins last winter.
"It was a great team win over a quality program – hopefully, this is an indication that we can play with anyone," he added. "My hope is that it will give us confidence."
Besides the play of Huffman and Englehart, Nowak had plenty of praise for junior center Olivia Lemmon.
"For the second straight night, Olivia set a career-high in rebounding with 17 boards and she has worked extremely hard on rebounding," said the coach.
Lemmon snagged 16 caroms against Walsh, in the opening game.
Junior wing Raygan Corrigall and Lemmon scored eight and seven points, respectively.
The Lady Black Tigers trailed 21-20 at the half and had a big third period (18-12) to seize a 38-33 lead heading into the final 8:00.
Other contributors for Falls were freshman guard Jenna Roberts, junior point guard Kayla Ramirez and Brustoski.
Kenston was led by sensational freshman Catara DeJarnette, who had 14 points. Kendall Jacobson added eight points while Gracie Skala and Rachel Apshago each had seven for the Lady Bombers.
In a battle against Walsh, where the Black Tigers rallied from five down in the final 1:00 to force the extra overtime session, Huffman exploded for a career-high 35 points — just two points shy of the school record.
Huffman’s seven triples may be a school record.
The school mark for points in a game is 37, set by Keely Feeman in 1984. Feeman is in the Cuyahoga Falls Hall of Fame.
"Chelsea’s basketball intelligence and skill puts her in a position to do well offensively when teams are game-planning to shut her down," said Nowak.
On the year, Huffman is averaging 19.5 points and 8.9 boards a game.
Senior forward Alivia Hamric and Lemmon added nine and six points, respectively. Ramirez (three points) and Corrigall (four) rounded out the scoring for the Tigers.
Forward Angela Vitantonio led Walsh with 18 points and forward Katie Clark had a huge game in the paint with 15 points and 16 boards.
Lemmon is adding six points and nine rebounds a game while Corrigall is adding nine points, Hamric 6.5 points, and Ramirez is adding three assists and three steals a game.
In Suburban League National Conference play, Falls played at North Royalton Saturday, but results weren’t available as of press time.
Falls hosts league rival Stow-Munroe Falls Wednesday at 7 p.m.