High school basketball / Nordonia 39, Twinsburg 38: Lee's 3-pointer caps Knights' comeback
MACEDONIA — After three quarters, Twinsburg had Nordonia right where it wanted.
A combination of Twinsburg's aggressive defense and lousy luck had kept the Knights' shooting as cold as the February air.
But in the fourth quarter, Nordonia turned up its defensive intensity and turned a 13-point deficit into its biggest comeback win of the year.
Nordonia guard Anthony Lee completed the rally with a 3-pointer with three seconds left, giving the Knights a come-from-behind 39-38 boys basketball win at Hugh Griffin Gymnasium.
Nordonia (8-11) outscored Twinsburg (4-11) 14-2 in the final quarter.
The result had Knights coach Dominique Sanders smiling, as he said his team couldn't buy a bucket for most of the first three quarters.
"It was a mixture of things," Sanders said. "Twinsburg is still one of the best defensive teams in the conference. Their physicality is always there and we didn't step up to the challenge in the first half.
"I ripped them at halftime," he added. "I told them to step up to the challenge in the second half and we did."
Tigers coach Phil Schmook was incredulous after the loss, saying Twinsburg turned the ball over on nearly every possession in the last five minutes of the game.
"Here's the situation: We had the game in our hands," Schmook said. "We made a lot of mistakes and poor decisions with the ball. That's why we ended up losing.
"The bottom line is if you want to win, you've got to take care of the ball. We just didn't make good decisions down the stretch."
Twinsburg finished the game with 20 turnovers, many of which were forced by Nordonia's trapping defense in the fourth quarter.
Early on, Twinsburg seemed to have things in order, as the Knights started the game in a 2-3 zone.
Twinsburg made three 3-pointers to take an early 15-10 lead and still led 15-13 after one quarter.
It was the second quarter when the Tigers turned up the defense. A steal and layup by guard George Jones provided Nordonia's lone points in the second.
Sophomore guard David Coniglio, who has played himself into the starting lineup for the Tigers, nailed two 3-pointers in the second quarter.
Coniglio led all scorers with 14 points.
Twinsburg senior wing Dante' Yarbrough was the best player down low for most of the game, and he finished with nine points and 14 rebounds.
It all added up to a 27-15 lead for the Tigers — and a fuming Sanders — at halftime.
Despite the Knights being read the riot act, it was the Tigers who controlled things early in the second half.
Twinsburg opened the third quarter on a 9-4 run. A 3-pointer from Coniglio with 3 minutes left in the third gave Twinsburg its largest lead at 34-17.
It was the Knights' bench bunch who helped stabilize things. A 3-pointer from Toussaint Perry-Hanley helped Nordonia trim the lead to 36-23 after three quarters.
Early in the fourth, 3-pointers from senior Luke Tyukodi and junior varsity call-up Patrick Williams breathed life into the Knights.
"Luke Tyukodi was the embodiment of a team captain tonight," Sanders said. "He's been struggling a bit, but he was out there cheering guys on and when we needed him to make plays he did."
Twinsburg's lone basket in the fourth quarter came on a short jumper from reserve Patrick Bond to make it 38-29.
Like most of his teammates, Lee was Ice cold for the first three quarters, but the senior finally found his shot in the fourth.
"When you're the best player on the court, you've just got to keep going," Sanders said.
"I just had to stay with it," Lee said. "My parents and my coaches always have confidence in me, so I need to keep having confidence."
A layup and a three-point play by Lee trimmed the lead further.
After Joel Jones made a layup to cut the lead to 38-36, Lee had a chance to tied with 1:50 left, but missed two free throws.
Twinsburg had a couple of chance to make it a two possession game, but the Tigers only got one shot off in the final two minutes.
A turnover with 20 seconds left gave Nordonia the ball back. Sanders called time out and there was no question who was getting the ball.
"We wanted in it in A. Lee's hands," Sanders said. "We told them 'If they back off you, hit the three. If they come up on you, drive.'"
After several seconds with the ball, Lee said he saw the Tigers' defense sag back. He unleashed a 3-pointer from the top of the key which hit nothing but net with 3 seconds left on the clock.
Out of time outs, the Tigers could only manager a half-court shot to beat the buzzer. After it went wide, Lee was mobbed by his teammates.