Falls boys basketball gets victory before entering COVID pause

Steve Batko
Correspondent

There’s still plenty of work ahead for the Cuyahoga Falls boys basketball squad, but there’s one message that continues to echo out of the gymnasium: The Black Tigers are improving.

Sometimes that doesn’t always produce a victory, but that can be tolerable as long as the Black Tigers are still vaulting forward.

“We are continuing to get better as a team and making big strides,” commented head coach Todd Taylor after his club posted an 81-57 non-league home win over the Academy for Urban Scholars for Youngstown Tuesday.

.

Falls improved to 2-6 overall this winter.

This time around, it was Jayden Hillier’s turn to shine as the junior guard had a beautiful stroke, pouring in 24 points in a career-high outing.

“Jayden played extremely well and was really shooting the ball well,” stressed Taylor. “He is the consummate team player and has worked hard this year.”

Hillier registered career highs in points and in 3-pointers as he buried five deep shots.

In addition, the 5-foot-10 Hillier snagged six rebounds, which may also be a career-best. Three of those boards came on the offensive glass and Hillier added four steals.

“I thought Jayden did a really nice job on the boards and with our (smallish) size, we need our guards to help out on the glass,” pointed out Taylor.

It was a sound win for the Black Tigers after a tough 94-68 loss to Westlake (6-6) one day after a heartbreaking 48-46 league loss to Wadsworth.

The loss to Wadsworth was difficult because Falls came back and played well to be in a position to spring its first Suburban League National Conference win if the Grizzlies had not converted a 1-and-1 free throw attempt with 5.9 seconds left.

Wadsworth (8-5 overall and 4-2 in the league) was up 46-44 when Maxx Bosley drained the pressure-packed free throw as well as the second shot. Black Tiger senior Trinny Henderson hit a layup at the buzzer.

“It was obviously a disappointing loss, but the big takeaway was the fact that we battled back and the message the kids gave to me is that we are getting better,” noted Taylor.

After the busy stretch and the big win over AUSY, Falls learned that a pause in play is under way due to COVID-19 as the team will have to halt activities until February 7. That’s when the team can resume practice.

Falls is slated to play next on Feb. 9 against Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy.

“It’s tough, but these kids have been really good with working hard and their positive attitude after the December shutdown we had,” pointed out Taylor. “The timing is bad because we are playing well, but these kids are great and will continue to work.”

Taylor noted there will be plenty of scheduling changes and additions, plus after the pause, the post season will sneak up pretty quick.

The Black Tiger win had a host of other impressive performances to build on.

Henderson had yet another strong floor game as he had 14 points, distributed eight assists, and had four thefts. Senior Kyler Tepus had 13 points, including three treys.

Undersized senior wing/forward Isaiah Campbell chipped in seven points and three steals.

“Trinny and Isaiah both had nice games,” offered Taylor. “Campbell was very active.”

Taylor also praised the liveliness of freshman forward Tim Mitchell, who added five points and eight rebounds, three of which came on the offensive glass.

“Tim played extremely well and that was great to see,” said Taylor.

Freshman guard Bryce Smith popped in a career high six points, had four boards and three steals off the bench. Senior David Rinehart had five points, senior Zander Miller four, and senior Nick Hyder hit a triple, had four steals and three feeds.

AUSY, a non-OHSAA school that is striving to be eligible next winter, was led by George Peoples. Peoples had 16 points and eight rebounds.

Despite a 26-point outburst in the third stanza, Falls came up short against Westlake, which loves to play up-tempo and shoot threes.

The Demons buried 13 triples as six players hit 3’s. Justin Garcia pumped in 23 points while Greyson Elyaderani had five points, but dished out 10 assists with four steals.

“We didn’t play well in the fourth quarter after doing so well in the third,” remarked Taylor.

Pacing the Black Tigers was Tepus with 21 points, Henderson had 19, and Campbell netted 10.

Campbell tossed in nine points against Wadsworth in a strong effort as Falls held the Grizzlies to just five points in the second period.