CUYAHOGA FALLS — For Cuyahoga Falls’ Todd Taylor and Nordonia’s Dominique Sanders, year one in charge of their respective boys basketballl programs has proven to be a grind.
One of the few bright spots for Falls this winter came on Jan. 7 when it marched into Nordonia and scored its lone conference win of the season.
Neither team had won a game in the Suburban League National Conference since then, but when Nordonia hit the hardwood Friday at Coach Tom Jones Court, things finally clicked.
The Knights caused 22 Falls turnovers and led by as many as 32 points before coasting home to a 58-37 rout Friday night.
Nordonia picked up its first win in a month, improving to 6-14, 4-9 in the National Conference. Falls dropped to 2-18, 1-12 in the National Conference.
Sanders called the win "much needed," as Nordonia finally saw its work in practice pay off.
"We had a great week of practice. It’s not been reflected in our record, but we’re still working hard in practice and getting better," Sanders said. "We showed that when we limit our mental errors, we can be successful. We caused a lot of turnovers tonight."
Taylor noted the Knights’ approach wasn’t much different than the first contest, but his team’s execution was lacking.
"They beat on us on the boards tonight and they took full advantage," Taylor said. "The difference from the first game was they hit their shots. The key was our turnovers and their offensive rebounds."
Falls started seniors Joey Sondles, Matus Motovsky, Ethan Tompkins and Donovan Mills for its Senior Night, but from the jump, the Knights seemed to have the advantage.
One change that helped the Knights recently has been senior Owen Licht starting. Licht helped a balanced Knight attack early as he finished with 10 points.
"I love Owen because Owen is a workhorse," Sanders said. "He had been struggling a bit with his jump shot, so he was asking us for anything we could to fix it. He’s got it back now."
Falls stayed in the game early, thanks in large part to the play of Mills, who had six points in the first quarter and led the Black Tigers with 12 points and five rebounds.
"I was really proud of Donovan’s effort," Taylor said. "He battled hard. Not everyone stepped up the way he did."
Nordonia was up 14-8 after one quarter, but the Knights didn’t blow the game open until it pushed the pace in the second quarter.
"We tried to dumb down our defense a little bit," Sanders said. "We also told the guys to just go out and play free tonight. If you missed a shot, just go out and get another."
The Knights’ aggression worked to perfection as a 14-0 run allowed Nordonia to take command of the game.
Falls trailed 32-12 at the half as the Knights’ attack proved to be as balanced as it was overwhelming. Ten different Knights scored in the contest, while Falls had more turnovers at halftime than it did points.
"You’re not going to even be in many games if you do that," Taylor said. "It was disappointing. They extended our offense so much, they took us out of whatever we wanted to do."
Nordonia kept pushing in the third quarter, which led to numerous trips to the free-throw line. Point guard Anthony Lee was the chief benefactor or Falls’ fouls, scoring eight of his team-high 12 points in the third quarter.
Sanders hoped the game showed his point guard was finally coming out of his shell.
"You see what he can do when he’s aggressive," Sanders said. "He’s got such a good handle."
Nordonia went 13-of-19 from the line, while Falls was 10-of-15.
Nordonia pushed the lead to 53-23 after three quarters and led by 32 before Sanders opted to put his junior varsity squad in.
Falls was able to outscore Nordonia 14-5 in the fourth, but the outcome was never in doubt.
Knight forward Joel Jones added 10 for Nordonia.
Falls got eight points from Trinny Henderson on the night.