High school basketball / Nordonia 58, Cuyahoga Falls 32: Hot start propels Knights

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Nordonia guard Anthony Lee puts up a shot during the Knights' 58-32 home win over Cuyahoga Falls Friday. Lee led all scorers with 16 points.

MACEDONIA — The Nordonia boys basketball team has endured an up-and-down season, but at least the Knights have been able to play a full schedule with a minimum of COVID-19 intrusions.

By contrast, Cuyahoga Falls has had so many COVID stoppages, the Black Tigers only played nine games prior to its trip to Nordonia on Friday.

After both teams were involved in buzzer-beaters Tuesday night, the question was who would respond better.

The answer: All Knights, all night long.

Nordonia raced out to a 15-0 lead to start the game and was never tested, cruising to a 58-32 Suburban League National Conference win.

Nordonia (9-11, 3-4) coach Dominique Sanders said the Knights came back to their roots a bit.

"They did a great job of executing our transition game tonight," Sanders said. "We kind of got away from that, as more teams have been playing zone against us. Tonight, we were able to run well."

Falls (2-8, 0-6) coach Todd Taylor said his team didn't start poorly due to any hangover from its last-second loss to Hudson on Tuesday.

"We just came out not ready to play tonight, mentally or physically," Taylor said. "It was a result from the way we practiced yesterday. We did not have a good practice at all. I thought after the loss to Hudson, that would be a motivating factor."

Nordonia guard Liam Gopolakrishna set the tone for the game by making back-to-back 3-pointers.

The threes kept coming for Nordonia, and they finished with five in the first half.

Taylor called time out and ripped into his team after the Nordonia's early run. The Black Tigers stopped the run, but the Knights still led 17-5 after one quarter.

Falls was able to make a bit of a reply in the second quarter when senior guard Kyler Tepus found some offense. Tepus scored seven of his team-high 12 points in the second quarter.

Falls guard Kyler Tepus attempts to get around Nordonia's Damon Wallace (10) and Joel Jones (2) during the Black Tigers' 58-32 loss at Nordonia Friday.

But Cuyahoga Falls was never able to get the lead below double digits, thanks in large part to the play of Nordonia guard Anthony Lee.

After making the game-winning basket on Tuesday, Lee picked up where he left off, finished with a game-high 16 points, including three 3-pointers.

"We told him he wanted to be more aggressive and he was tonight," Sanders said. "He did that tonight, whether it was driving to the basket or hitting the threes."

"I've watched Anthony play all year," Taylor said. "He's had some games where it hasn't happened for him, but it did tonight."

Nordonia led 28-16 at the half, but put the game to bed after a layup by Falls' Trinny Henderson started the third quarter.

Nordonia went on an 11-0 run to blow the game open, as Falls' ball-handling fell apart.

The best part for Nordonia was the fact that, in a quarter which it won 15-6, seven Knights scored.

"It really was a total team effort for them tonight," Taylor said.

Ahead 43-22 after three quarters, the Knights led by as many as 25 before Sanders emptied his bench.

Frustration spilled over for the Falls in the waning minutes of the game, as Tepus and Taylor were each hit with technical fouls.

One player Taylor singled out as having a good game was freshman forward Tim Mitchell.

"Tim had a good day of practice yesterday," Taylor said. "Tim was probably our most consistent player tonight. I'm an old-school coach. I believe if you practice well, you play well."

Mitchell finished with seven points and four rebounds for Falls.

Senior forward Joel Jones has 11 points and seven rebounds for the Knights.

Nordonia had one of its best free-throw shooing nights, going 10-of-11 from the line.