Falls girls basketball returns with win over Bees

Roger Gordon
Correspondent

The Cuyahoga Falls girls basketball team withstood two first-half surges by visiting Suburban League National Conference rival Brecksville-Broadview Heights and held on for a 40-37 victory Monday.

It was the Black Tigers’ ninth straight win over the Bees as they improved to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the National Conference.

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Brecksville hit on three consecutive three-point shots to jump out to a 9-5 lead. Cuyahoga Falls responded by forging ahead 10-9 after the first quarter. The home team increased its lead to 22-11 late in the second quarter, but the Bees scored nine straight points to cut their deficit to 22-20 at halftime.

Cuyahoga Falls led 30-29 after three quarters. Throughout the second half, neither team had more than a three-point advantage.

Senior forward Emma Brustoski’s put-back late in the fourth quarter gave the Black Tigers a 34-33 lead, and they never trailed thereafter. In fact, they held Brecksville scoreless for nearly the last three minutes of the game. A series of stops defensively and a couple pressure-packed free throws help them hang on.

“It took us a while to really kind of find our legs, to really find ourselves back into the rhythm of playing, having been off for almost five weeks. I feel like that was a factor, especially from a conditioning standpoint,” Cuyahoga Falls head coach Joe Nowak said. “As the second half went on, I was really proud of how we handled adversity. We didn’t get overwhelmed and just really buckled down defensively over the last few minutes and did enough to hang on.”

Sophomore forward Mackenzie Kramer paced Cuyahoga Falls with 22 points and four rebounds.

“Mackenzie continues to find ways to score the ball,” said Nowak. “She’s someone who has developed a game where she can be effective offensively in a number of different ways. This was another example of that. She’s confident with the ball in her hands in terms of going to the basket, shooting off the dribble and finishing in the paint with a lot of traffic near her.

“She’s somebody who we’re going to need to continue to run to for production offensively, and she’s somebody who I know will continue to work on her game on both ends of the floor, to continue to try to be the person who we need her to be.”

Junior guard Jenna Roberts scored seven points, while senior forward Emma Brustoski contributed five points, nine rebounds and five steals.

“Jenna did a really good job of coming through throughout the game in terms of knocking down a couple baskets,” Nowak said. “She had a three in the first quarter to sort of stop Brecksville’s momentum and also hit a key free throw at the end to give us that three-point lead. She continues to not only gain experience but also gain that understanding of what she does well and what she’ll need to do well for us to succeed.

“Emma has constant energy and effort on both ends of the floor. I don’t think she came out at all in this game. I think she played all 32 minutes, and I think she could’ve gone a lot more. She’s that glue type of player who holds us together. People feed off her energy, her enthusiasm. Her numbers are consistent, but at the same time, even more so, she’s somebody who leads by example and somebody who everybody kind of looks up to as well for the person and the player who she is.”

Scoring two points apiece were sophomore forward Ellie Brustoski, Emma’s sister, senior forward Taylor Cain and freshman guard Trista Lee. Ellie Brustoski added four rebounds.

Cuyahoga Falls was scheduled to play at Streetsboro Thursday and at National Conference rival North Royalton Saturday.

The Black Tigers are set to host conference foe Twinsburg Jan. 13, before traveling to Brecksville-Broadview Heights for a rematch Jan. 16 at 1:30 p.m.