Twinsburg girls basketball struggles in return vs. Nordonia

Steve Batko
Correspondent
Twinsburg Tigers

It was not the best scenario for the season opener, but first-year Twinsburg girls basketball head coach Heath Savage will take it.

In its first action of the season, host Twinsburg lost 62-26 to a polished Nordonia squad Saturday.

For the Tigers, it was a matter of simply hitting the basketball court and competing against someone other than a teammate.

Twinsburg had a pause on all athletic and extracurricular activities, which created even more difficulty with mapping out the season for a young basketball program with a new coaching staff.

“It has been difficult for the kids as we have had to alter practices and then when we came back, we had to quarantine, and it has just been tough for the girls,” explained Savage.

“We want our senior players to have a senior season,” emphasized a passionate Savage, alluding to safety protocols for COVID-19.

This was an opener against a club that could prove to be one of the top teams in the area. Nordonia (9-3) already has faced quality programs and played intense minutes in some big-time games.

That’s what made the opener so tough.

Nordonia is loaded again this year with veteran and young talent, led by 1,000-point scorer Madison Cluse, an athletic 5-foot-11 guard-forward heading to Miami of Ohio University, plus 5-9 guard Hallie Majoros (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), and 6-0 junior forward Kennedy Syllabi.

By the way, this also was the league opener for the Lady Tigers as Nordonia moved to 4-0 in the strong Suburban League National Conference.

“Nordonia has a lot of games under their belt and it was difficult for us to prepare for with having to alter practices, but I thought the kids played together and competed,” explained Savage.

“The girls fought and competed,” said Savage.

Solid play led to a good first quarter for Twinsburg, which trailed 14-9, but there were some huge positives.

The Tigers featured a nice 6-0 spurt – thanks to a penetrating layup in traffic by senior guard Jada Austin.

However, Nordonia answered with an 11-0 run in the second period.

Cluse, who totaled 21 points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals, buried a 3-point shot off a feed from Majoros and then Majoros canned a deep triple on a dish from Cluse to push the lead to 25-9.

Austin responded by nailing a pull-up jumper to snap the run at the 3:21 mark to make it 25-11.

Majoros was scoreless in the second half, but the damage was done as she drilled her third 3-pointer of the half on a feed from Cluse to make it 28-11.

With 16.7 seconds left in the first half, Austin sank a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 28-13. The first half ended with Nordonia up 30-13.

“I thought for the most part, we stayed with them (the Knights) and played together, and doing a good job to limited turnovers and to try and limit Nordonia’s fast break opportunities,” noted Savage.

“We responded well in mixing up defenses and being able to communicate with each other on defense.”

Nordonia’s defense was too much for the Tigers as the Knights extended the lead with a 19-7 third period to make it 49-20 heading into the final quarter.

A Knight steal that led to a Taylor Root layup at the 4:06 mark kick started an 11-2 Knight run. It was 40-18 at that point.

Austin, who paced Twinsburg with 17 points, had a beautiful layup in the quarter as she sliced to the hoop while using her tremendous quickness in splitting two Knight defenders.

The four-year guard poured in 11 points in the first half.

“Jada is the engine for us and one of the things we are trying to do is to find ways so that Jada does not always have to handle the ball or shoot,” pointed out Savage.

In addition, Austin added five boards, a triple, and two thefts despite being hawked by Majoros and a few other Nordonia athletes.

Twinsburg did a decent job with only 16 turnovers unofficially against the Knights, but at times, had trouble in the half-court game and getting shots to drop.

Junior wing Logan Pride added five points and grabbed five rebounds with three steals, a block, and one assist.

Nighya Carthen, a four-year senior post player, controlled the defensive glass as she had eight rebounds on the defensive end, unofficially.

“We rebounded well and did a good job of limiting Nordonia to just one shot,” explained Savage.

“Nighya had a great game on the boards and she was a force on the defensive boards, which is a strong statement for senior leadership,” observed Savage.

Syllaba scored 12 for points for Nordonia and hauled down eight rebounds.

“I think this game will help us as we will learn about our spacing on offense and playing together – our goal is to improve each week,” stressed Savage.

Twinsburg plays a non-league game at St. Vincent-St. Mary on Jan. 11 and has league contests Jan. 13 on the road at Cuyahoga Falls and a home matchup against North Royalton Jan. 16.