Falls girls basketball stays unbeaten in National Conference

Roger Gordon
Correspondent
Cuyahoga Falls' Jenna Roberts looks to make a three during the first half of a basketball game against Twinsburg, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

It is a new and exciting time for the Cuyahoga Falls girls basketball program.

After some very lean years, the Black Tigers are now 7-2 overall and 5-0 in the Suburban League National Conference after a pair of easy wins.

First, on Jan. 16, Cuyahoga Falls won 56-25 at National Conference rival Brecksville-Broadview Heights. Then, on Jan. 20, the Black Tigers ousted visiting league crossover rival Tallmadge 42-19.

In the win over Brecksville-Broadview Heights, its 10th straight over the Bees, Cuyahoga Falls led 13-7 after one quarter and 27-15 at halftime before outscoring the home team 20-3 in the third quarter for a 47-18 advantage entering the fourth period. The Black Tigers, who hit nine three-point shots, never trailed in the game.

“I thought we did a really good job of establishing a style of play that we wanted to have on both ends of the floor,” Cuyahoga Falls head coach Joe Nowak said. “To be able to be in control from the opening tip was really good to see.

"It was a reflection of us being able to prepare well and also be able to execute on both ends. I’m really proud of our ability to go out and put into practice things we work on headed into games, and that’s going to be important for us moving forward.”

Leading the way for Cuyahoga Falls was sophomore forward Mackenzie Kramer, who scored 18 points, including three three-pointers.

“Mackenzie is averaging 17 points per game, so this game was right around her average,” said Nowak. “She continues to become a lot more comfortable with the ball in her hands and to have an understanding of making good decisions and what to do to put herself and her teammates in a position to do well. She has that scoring mentality, but at the same time she understands how to help others be successful on the offensive side of the ball.”

Other key contributors for the Black Tigers were senior forward Emma Brustoski and junior guard Laila Smith. Brustoski scored 12 points and had 10 rebounds, while Smith had 10 points, including three treys.

“Emma has just been outstanding for us, especially defensively,” Nowak said. “She is someone who has this nonstop energy that’s contagious. Players feed off her enthusiasm, and she continues to be the catalyst for a lot of things we’re doing offensively because of how well she guards defensively and how well she puts others in position to do well.

“Laila had a really solid game. She’s a natural shooter,” the coach said. “She had a couple games where she had good looks, but her shots weren’t going in. I think she really had her confidence waver, but she just needed a couple shots to go in, and once they did, she was able to knock some more down. She works incredibly hard on a daily basis, and she does all she can to improve both offensively and defensively.”

In the win over Tallmadge, Cuyahoga Falls was up 11-5 after the first quarter, 17-9 at the half and 27-14 after the third quarter.

“I thought we did an outstanding job of executing our game plan defensively,” said Nowak. “I think it was, from start to finish, really one of the more complete games we’ve had on the defensive end.

“In the first half, it was a single-digit game for the most part, and for us to be able to pull away in the second half, and at the same time, not let up defensively, is something I think we can build on as the regular season comes to a close.”

Kramer paced the Black Tigers with 19 points. Brustoski had six points, five rebounds and an astonishing nine steals, seven of which came in the first half.

“Mackenzie had been battling an ankle injury over the previous handful of days and actually missed two days of practice,” Nowak said. “So for her to be able to play every minute until the last few minutes of the fourth quarter just shows her mental toughness, her desire to help her team as much as she can. And, at the same time, she continues to be somebody we can turn to and rely on and help us offensively.

“Emma has some of the quickest hands I’ve seen a player have in a long time. She guards the ball on the perimeter. She can guard the other team’s primary ball handler and really puts herself in a position to get takeaways between her athleticism and her quickness. To be able to cause turnovers like that shows she has a lot of confidence.”

Cuyahoga Falls will travel to Garfield Heights Jan. 25 at 6:30 p.m.

The Black Tigers are scheduled to host both National Conference rival Wadsworth Jan. 27 and league crossover rival Kent Roosevelt Jan. 29. Both tipoffs are set for 7 p.m.