Falls girls hoops overcomes slow start to win conference opener

Roger Gordon
Correspondent

A slow start did not deter the Cuyahoga Falls girls basketball team Dec. 2 in a home game and in its Suburban League National Conference opener against North Royalton.

The Black Tigers fell behind 8-2 early on, but they quickly battled back and a 25-foot shot by sophomore forward Ellie Brustoski at the first-quarter buzzer gave her team the lead for good at 12-11.

It helped propel Cuyahoga Falls to a 49-38 victory. The Black Tigers improved to 2-1 on the season.

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Cuyahoga Falls upped its lead to 28-18 at halftime and 36-25 after three quarters.

“We led by double digits pretty much all the way to midway through the fourth quarter when North Royalton cut it to six points with a few minutes to play,” Black Tigers head coach Joe Nowak said. “Then we did a good job of knocking down free throws and taking care of the basketball in the last couple minutes.”

Leading the way for Cuyahoga Falls was sophomore forward Mackenzie Kramer, who scored 17 points, including three three-pointers. She also hit all six of her free throws in the final period.

“Mackenzie very simply played really, really well on both ends of the floor,” said Nowak. “She’s making really good decisions with the ball in her hands, she’s communicating well defensively and she’s very much taking advantage of opportunities that are presented to her.

“I think she’s also doing a really good job of leading by example on and off the floor. Her season is off to a really good start. She’s averaging 16 points per game and is a huge reason why we’ve been able to win a couple games.”

Junior guard Laila Smith scored 10 points and freshman guard Trista Lee contributed six points off the bench.

“Laila continues to shoot the ball well,” Nowak said. “She’s doing a really good job of creating opportunities for herself and has a really good awareness of the floor and of when opportunities present themselves. She’s playing with confidence. She’s received the chance to get a lot of minutes, and she’s capitalized on those opportunities throughout these first three games.

“Trista has provided a spark in every game so far. She’s really settled in very much so defensively, and she takes a lot of pride on that end of the floor. Her ability to defend people well is a way to create offense for herself.

“She’s in no way been overwhelmed at all with playing at the varsity level, and she continues to earn opportunities to get minutes. She’s very much been a contributing member of our rotation and has played a really important role against North Royalton.”

Brustoski wound up with five points, six rebounds and four assists. Senior forward Emma Brustoski, Ellie’s sister, scored four points, as did junior guard Jenna Roberts.

Senior forward Taylor Cain knocked down a crucial three-point shot late in the third quarter.

“That helped to continue to give us momentum when I felt things were starting to shift a little bit,” said Nowak. “It also gave Taylor confidence.”

Cuyahoga Falls is scheduled to host National Conference rival Brecksville-Broadview Heights Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.

The Black Tigers are set to travel to conference foe Wadsworth Dec. 12 at 2:30 p.m.