High school boys basketball: Nordonia shows off offense in win over Wadsworth

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Nordonia's Damon Wallace is fouled by Wadsworth's Owen Simmons during the first quarter on Friday in Macedonia. [Phil Masturzo/ Beacon Journal]

MACEDONIA — Last year, Nordonia boys basketball hung its hat on defense.

It didn't have much of a choice. The Knights often struggled to score 50 points in a game last winter.

Prior to the season, Knights coach Dominique Sanders said he felt his team would be much better on the offensive end. And when Nordonia welcomed Wadsworth to Hugh Griffin Gymnasium Dec. 4, there was clear evidence the Knights have made progress.

A second-half surge and good use of the transition game helped Nordonia score a 62-49 Suburban League National Conference win over the Grizzlies.

Sanders lauded his team, as the Knights (2-1, 1-0) bare little resemblance to last year's squad offensively. Nordonia has scored 60 or more points in each of its first three games.

"I've got to give kudos to these guys for working so hard on their game," Sanders said. "As I said before, our attendance this summer for amazing for workouts. They're dedicated to their craft. We preach perseverance in our program."

Nordonia coach Dominique Sanders talks with Touissaint Perry-Hanley during the first quarter of the game against Wadsworth  Friday in Macedonia. [Phil Masturzo/ Beacon Journal]

Emblematic of the Knights' transformation is the play of senior point guard Anthony Lee. After an inconsistent junior year, Lee has been on fire to start this season, and he led the Knights with 16 points Friday.

"That's what we saw in him from the first day," Sanders said. "He wants the ball now. His skills are the best of any guard I've coached."

"We have to look to be more offensive this year," Lee said. "I just have to look to my offensive game and be a leader."

Nordonia's Anthony Lee dribbles up court as Wadsworth's Scott Dallas pressures on Friday in Macedonia. [Phil Masturzo/ Beacon Journal]

Wadsworth coach Mike Moser noted, although his team was suffering for first-game jitters, the Knights ran past them.

"They've got a lot of new bodies and they've got a lot of athletes," Moser said. "Lee is a heck of a ball player. Part of it was we were playing in our first game and they were playing their third. You can learn a lot about your team in the first three games."

Nordonia's defense did its part as well, forcing 17 Wadsworth turnovers and contesting nearly every Grizzly shot.

Wadsworth stayed with the Knights early behind the play of guard Soloman Callaghan and forward Owens Simmons.

Callaghan, who drove to the hoop often in the first half, finished with a game-high 19 points before leaving in the fourth quarter with a twisted ankle.

"We knew that No. 3 [Callaghan] was about 40 percent of their offense," Sanders said. "We wanted to try to run him out and make someone else beat us."

Simmons was the "someone else" early, as he made two 3-pointers in the first quarter. He finished with 12 points before fouling out.

Nordonia's Liam Gopalakrishna, left, and Wadsworth's Solomon Callaghan go after a second-quarter loose ball on Friday in Macedonia. [Phil Masturzo/ Beacon Journal]

Up 17-14 after one quarter, Nordonia announced its intentions with a 7-0 run to start the game. The run was sparked by the play of Knight forward Damon Wallace, who earned four and-one situations in the game.

Wallace finished with a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

"Damon is a workhorse for us," Sanders said. "He's always working under the glass. He's undersized for his position [6-foot-3], but he plays so physical."

However, Wadsworth answered with its own 7-0 run, as freshman Maxx Bosley started to find the range.

Nordonia, which led 30-28 at halftime, unleashed its transition game in earnest in a decisive third quarter. 

After Wadsworth closed the gap to 40-36, Nordonia ended the quarter on a 10-1 run, and led by double digits thereafter.

"They did a great job in transition, and when you're able to do that you can build momentum quickly," Moser said. "We didn't get back on defense very well. I think a lot of it was the fact it was still our first game."

Down 50-37 after three quarters, Wadsworth tried rally by using a full-court press and trapping the half-court defense. Although the Grizzlies succeeding in keeping Lee off the board in the fourth quarter, the Knights proved they had other options on offense.

One of them was junior guard Matt Hayes, who finished with 11 points. Senior forward Joel Jones and sophomore guard Joey Palinkas also made layups down the stretch for the Knights.

Wadsworth finished 10-of-15 from the free-throw line, and Nordonia was 8-of-15.