What a start to the season it has been for the Nordonia girls basketball team. The Knights improved to 4-0 with a 52-40 victory over Warren Howland Saturday in the Toni Ross Spirit Foundation Tournament at Howland.
The win over Howland also gave Nordonia the tournament championship. On Friday, the Knights beat Canfield South Range 48-22 in their opening tourney game.
The wins over Howland and South Range came pretty easily for Nordonia, but the Knights’ 69-67 triumph at Akron Buchtel Wednesday went down to the wire.
Nordonia trailed 15-12 after one quarter, led 33-31 at halftime and was down 53-48 after three quarters before coming back to win.
"We fought back from 10 points down in the third quarter," Knights head coach Julie Buckler said. "It was just one of those intense, competitive games that you get to see every once a while. It was a very exciting game, a very physical game.
"The girls never gave up, they fought, they pushed, they did everything you could possibly ask of them to do to make that win happen."
Junior guard/forward Maddy Cluse drove the entire length of the court to make a crucial layup that gave Nordonia a late lead. Senior guard/forward Lizzie Imrie made a few crucial free throws down the stretch, and sophomore guard Ella Gorta got a huge rebound off a missed free throw that pretty much sealed the win for Nordonia.
Cluse scored 27 points and had 12 rebounds.
"Maddy was a huge piece of this game. She just kind of took over," said Buckler. "She had the mentality of ‘I’m just not giving up.’ She had that expectation for her teammates also. From rebounding to finishing, she was doing whatever we needed her to do throughout the entire game. Defensively, she guarded Buchtel’s best player for a good chunk of time."
Imrie had 17 points, including 11 free throws. Junior guard Hallie Majoros scored 15 points, including three three-pointers in the first half.
"Buchtel made adjustments to Hallie in the second half, but she just found other ways to contribute," Buckler said. "Defensively, she also guarded their best player for a good chunk of the game and did a great job on her."
In the win over South Range, Nordonia led 13-4 after one quarter, 21-8 at the half and 32-14 after the third quarter.
"It was your typical day-after-Thanksgiving game, trying to get your legs back into it and everything like that. We weren’t making shots, they weren’t making shots," said the coach. "We did play great defense, doing everything we wanted to. We did our job against them on that end of the court. We gave up some little things, but we got what we needed and we fought and persevered."
Cluse scored 13 points, Imrie had 10 points and Majoros scored eight points.
In the win over Howland, Nordonia was up 14-11 after one quarter, 35-18 at halftime and 42-27 after three quarters.
"We were all on the same page defensively and offensively," Buckler said. "We were able to push the ball in transition like we’ve been working on. Defensively, we switched up some different things. It was a team effort across the board. We keep having multiple people step up and help us to be successful."
Cluse scored 14 points, Imrie had 11 points and Majoros scored nine points.
"All three girls had their own part in helping us be successful in this game," said Buckler.
Cluse and Imrie were named co-MVPs of the tournament.
"They just made things happen not only for themselves but for their teammates," Buckler said.
Nordonia is scheduled to open Suburban League National Conference play at Wadsworth Wednesday at 7 p.m.
The Knights are set to host National Conference rival Hudson Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.