Ganley leads Brecksville to second consecutive close win over Nordonia boys basketball

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Nordonia forward Damon Wallace drives to the basket during the Knights' 61-56 home loss to Brecksville-Broadview Heights Dec. 15. Wallace scored a career-high 17 points.

MACEDONIA — Back-to-back games against the same opponent are common in the NBA, but almost unheard of in high school basketball.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic paused athletics in other districts, however, Nordonia and Brecksville-Broadview Heights met Dec. 15 for the second time in four days.

This time, the Suburban League National Conference game took place at Nordonia's Griffin Gymnasium and it was not the same as the Bees' home win on Dec. 11. This time, both teams shot the ball better and Nordonia was able to run its transition game a bit more.

Unfortunately for the Knights, the result was the same.

Brecksville (2-0) was never able to get comfortable against the Knights, but Nordonia (2-5, 1-3) never had the lead after halftime and fell 61-56.

"It was a lot different this time," Bees coach Steve Mehalik said. "Both teams made a lot more shots. Like I said in the first game, they are relentless. Every time we tried to pull away they hit a 3."

Nordonia coach Dominque Sanders said his team needed a bit more sharpness, particularly down the stretch.

"They executed," he said. "At the end of the game, I don't think our guards wanted the moment. We had a couple turnovers in the last minute. Those guys understand how to win ballgames. It's doing the little things outside of practice."

The biggest change from the two teams' first contest — literally — was the return of Bees starting center Chase Garito. Returning from quarantine, the 6-7 sophomore made an impact, scoring 12 points with seven rebounds and four blocked shots.

However, Nordonia's frontcourt also had a big game.

The Knights got a career-high 17 points and eight rebounds from senior forward Damon Wallace, and senior forward Joel Jones added 14 point and nine rebounds.

"We were certain that Damon was going to have a good game tonight," Sanders aid. "He's such a smart basketball player. He works his tail off and is coachable.

"Joel Jones is our captain for a reason," Sanders added. "I told him in the offseason that we need a lot more from him this year and you can tell he's giving it."

However, although the Knights had a solid game in the low post, they had no answer for Bees senior guard Tyler Ganley, who showed off every facet of his game on his way to a game-high 23 points, including three 3-pointers.

"He's been more of just a shooter for us in the past," Mehalik said. "Tonight, he was special. Nobody works harder than him."

Ganley closed out a back-and-forth first quarter with a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give the Bees an 18-16 lead.

The second quarter proved to be a draw, as Brecksville took a 30-28 lead into half.

One issue the last two games for Nordonia has been a lack of offense by senior point guard Anthony Lee, who was held to just five points for the second consecutive game.

Emblematic of Lee's struggle was the end of the first half, when he was fouled on a drive to the bucket at the buzzer and had two free throws to tie the score. But he missed both, and finished just 2-of-6 from the line.

Overall, Nordonia shot just 5-of-11 on free throws, compared to 9-of-12 for Brecksville.

"He has to be aggressive all of the time," Sanders said of Lee. "You can't show the opposition during the game that you're discouraged or they're going to try to rip your heart out."

With Ganley slashing to the basket, Brecksville looked to take control, but Nordonia got contributions from its bench to stay close and trailed 43-39 after three quarters.

Two free throws by Garito gave the Bees a 53-46 lead with just under four minutes left.

True to form, though, Nordonia fought back, as Matt Hayes hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 57-54 with just over a minute left.

The Bees answered with a bucket by Luke Ganim, but a steal and a layup by Jones cut the lead to 59-56 with 35 seconds left.

Sanders called timeout and hoped to get another turnover. Instead, Bees forward Matt Rose converted a layup and was fouled. Although he missed the ensuing free throw, Brecksville forced a turnover on the Knights' next possession and ran out the clock.

As COVID continues to force schedule changes, the Knights will play Maple Heights Dec. 18.