Falls girls basketball looks to maintain success with new mix of players

Roger Gordon
Cuyahoga Falls guard Emma Brustowski cuts away from Stow-Munroe Falls' Krisiten Chmielewski during a game last season.

This season’s Cuyahoga Falls girls basketball team will have a mix of returning letter winners and young players getting varsity minutes for the first time.

“I think we have a combination of speed and a number of players who have really developed their skill level in the offseason,” Black Tigers ninth-year head coach Joe Nowak said. “We’re going to look to be as up tempo as much as we can offensively. I think we have the ability to be athletic.

“Defensively, I think we’ll be able to use that speed and athleticism on that side of the floor as well. The kids play with an aggressive mindset.”

Last year, Cuyahoga Falls finished 14-10 overall and 8-6 in the Suburban League National Conference. The Black Tigers lost to Canfield in a Division I sectional final.

Players lost to graduation are Chelsea Huffman, Olivia Lemmon, Raygan Corrigall and Abby Englehart.

Leading the way for Cuyahoga Falls will be senior forward Emma Brustoski and junior guard Jenna Roberts.

“Emma is probably one of the most athletic players we’ve had in a long time. She’s incredibly quick and aggressive,” said Nowak. “She also spent some time over the summer working on her skills to make her better on both ends of the floor.

“Jenna is very comfortable with what’s being asked of her. She’s another player who’s spent a great deal of time developing her skill level, especially her ball-handling ability.”

The three other starters will be sophomore forward Mackenzie Kramer, junior guard Laila Smith and sophomore forward Ellie Brustoski, Emma’s sister.

“Mackenzie has a tremendous basketball IQ,” Nowak said. “She definitely has a genuine passion for the game and a willingness to lead the group. She has tremendous leadership both on and off the floor. In the last 10 games last year, she had at least four or five games in which she scored in double figures. She very much came on towards the end of the season.

“Laila has very much waited for this opportunity to start. She put a tremendous amount of time in over the offseason. She’s one of our best shooters, has the ability to score pretty much from anywhere. Like Mackenzie, she just loves the game and understands it as well.

“Like Emma, Ellie is one of our best athletes. There’s a lot of versatility to her game and her skill set. She’s very much accepted the responsibility of starting. She’s improved a lot in a short amount of time.

“There’s chemistry between the five starters that’s very much been on display since day one.”

The first player off the bench will be freshman guard Trista Lee.

“Trista has not been overwhelmed at all. She’s very comfortable on the floor and can handle the ball well,” said the coach. “She’s very much earned a varsity spot. You can tell she’s played for a number of years.”

Also seeing playing time will be seniors Taylor Cain, a forward, and Audriana Bando, a guard.

“Taylor and Audriana are excellent leaders by example,” Nowak said. “They have great work ethics and have tremendously improved, too, over the last couple years.”

Junior guard Zoey Laney did not play last year but returns this season.

“Zoey had adapted well coming off more than a year of not playing,” said Nowak. “She will play some valuable minutes. She handles the ball well and can shoot it.”

Other team members are juniors Nicole Organiscak and Alonna Little and sophomore Kloey Dunford.

According to the coach, all roads in the National Conference go through Stow-Munroe Falls.

“Stow basically brings everybody back from last year. It’s no secret that they’re loaded,” he said. “Wadsworth and Nordonia are always more than competitive. Nordonia has probably two of the best players in the conference.”

Nowak’s assistant coaches are Steve Kramer and Emily Morgan.

“We want to start well, be as competitive as possible and play as well as we can,” said Nowak. “If we can continue to gain experience and continue to grow individually and collectively, we’re going to be in good shape, especially once the second half of the season rolls around.”

Cuyahoga Falls was scheduled to open the season at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary Nov. 21 at 2:30 p.m.