Wallace leads Nordonia boys basketball past Hudson

Rob Barrone
Correspondent
Norodnia center Damon Wallace throws down a dunk late in the Knights' 49-36 win at Hudson Jan. 15. Wallace led all scorers with 22 points.

HUDSON — It was a complete 180. 

The second meeting between the Hudson and Nordonia boys’ basketball clubs Jan. 15 at the Explorers Ray “Buck” Hyser Gymnasium was a turnaround from a Hudson 55-43 victory some five weeks earlier.

In the first clash, the Explorers outscored Nordonia 46-10 in the paint to take a Suburban League (National) Conference win.

This time around, the Knights made a concerted effort to go inside.

With senior Damon Wallace leading the way with a monstrous first half, the visitors took control early and then held on taking a 49-36 decision.

In the end, Nordonia (6-9) won the war inside the lane by a 32-20 count this time around with Wallace leading the way.

“The last time we played Hudson, we didn’t execute anything and our effort was atrocious. We didn’t look like we wanted to play. The emphasis today was to get the ball in the paint,” Nordonia coach Dominique Sanders said.

The game did not count toward the Suburban League standings (where the Knights are still 2-3), as the league decided due to COVID-19 that only the first meeting between conference foes would count toward the championship.

Hudson has only played five games thus far and is currently 2-3 overall and 1-2 in conference play.

Hudson's David Gentry takes a shot over Nordonia's Derek Occhipinti during the Explorers' 49-36 home loss to the Knights Jan. 15.

“You’ve got to give them credit. They played a great defensive game and got after us and unfortunately we didn’t respond well,” Hudson coach Jeff Brink.

As Nordonia did its 180 so did its top scorer in Wallace.

The senior did not score or grab a rebound in the first meeting with the Explorers. This time in the first half Wallace single-handily outscored Hudson 18-17 and out-rebounded the opposition 7-6.

Wallace ended with a game high 22 points and nine boards. His breakaway slam in the final minute also put the exclamation mark on the win.

“He (Wallace) has been great. Ever since we challenged him about practicing a little harder, he’s been a man in practice and it's translating into the games,” Sanders said. “I think he had a chip on his shoulder about this one after a goose egg against a big time opponent; that didn’t sit well with him. He showed that with his effort tonight and especially that throw down at the end of the game.”

“That’s great for that guy. He works his tail off. He puts in the work extra hours and is the leader; he leads us in scoring and leads us in rebounding. We are just following his lead right now,” Sanders added.

Wallace got the game’s first two points and then gave his team the lead for good breaking a 6-6 tie with a free throw with 4:44 left in the first quarter. He had eight points in the first frame and four consecutive rebounds to boot. Nordonia was up 15-10 at the first stop.

The Explorers had their top three scorers Tyler Miller, Dave Gentry and Aiden Lal pick up two fouls each in the games first ten minutes of action and the Knights took advantage of their early absences.

Hudson’s JD Taylor hit a three pointer to start the second, but the Knights took control with a 13-0 run. Wallace hit three straight buckets inside in that run and grabbed the first three boards of that second frame as well.

Lal scored twice late in the period for the Explorers on hard takes to the rack, but Wallace also had two buckets down the stretch.

The score was 32-17, Knights, at intermission.

The Explorers battled back.

Their two big men Gentry and Miller had two scores each early in the second half as the hosts began to chip away at what was a 17-point deficit just before halftime. Wallace’s put-back in the final minute of the third quarter gave Nordonia a 38-27 advantage after three.

Miller hit a triple to start the fourth period. Ryan Evans came off the bench for a stick back and Miller also scored off the glass. After a missed one and one opportunity by the Knights with 2:56 left Gentry scored inside to close the gap to 41-36 with 2:36 left.

Gentry led Hudson with 13 points and eleven boards while Lal contributed seven points to the losing cause.

The Knights closed out strong scoring the final eight points. Senior guard Anthony Lee hit both ends of a one and one and Wallace followed that effort with a steal.

Lee returned to the line to again score two points on a one and one. The lead was now 45-36 with 1:24 to go. Wallace then got his punctuation mark dunk and Lee finished up with a fast break lay-in for the final 13-point bulge.

Lee backed Wallace’s effort with 13 points.

“In the second half we had a good rally to get it (the deficit) down to five; that was a pretty good chunk to work off. We had a nice run in the second half, the guys fought hard. Unfortunately you can’t lose a quarter by ten, the second quarter (17-7), you just can’t do that in high school basketball. It’s tough to dig out of. We came back with a solid third quarter and got it down to five in the fourth quarter; that’s a positive,” Brink related.

Brink praised Gentry on his efforts as well as Evans.

“Ryan Evans (four points, two rebounds and two fourth quarter steals) was a spark plug tonight. His effort was phenomenal,” Brink noted. “He gives you everything he’s got in the tank. Dave’s (Gentry) effort was tremendous. He played a lot of minutes and played physical for us.”

After winning the rebounding battle the first time around at Nordonia (35-19) this contest was a stalemate at 18-18. The Knights ended the game with 11 turnovers while Hudson committed 17.