High school girls basketball / Nordonia 53, Massillon 20: Knights too much for rusty Tigers

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Nordonia guard Taylor Root drives to the basket during the Knights' 53-20 win over Massillon in a girls basketball Division I sectional final Thursday night. [Tim Howard/For the Kent Weeklies]

MACEDONIA — Every team has had to deal with disruptions this winter, but the Massillon girls basketball team has dealt with more than most.

Tigers coach Joe Pierce said they had their last 10 games canceled due to COVID-19 issues and only restarted practicing Monday.

Massillon faced a major challenge in its return, traveling to Nordonia on Thursday for a Division I sectional final in the Northeast 3 district.

The seventh-seed Knights played the role of favorite perfectly.

Nordonia forced 19 turnovers and ran away with a 53-20 win at Hugh Griffith Gymnasium.

With the win, Nordonia advanced to a Division I district semifinal game, which it will host Tuesday against Green. Green defeated Jackson 50-47 Thursday.

Nordonia coach Julie Buckler said she wanted her team to make sure it gave the underdog Tigers no chance at an upset.

"That was our goal tonight," Buckler said. "We wanted to work on some things we hadn't done on offense this year. We focused on not letting up. We've had games this year where we've had a lead and then let up, which let them back in the game."

Pierce said his team's effort was there, but the 33rd-seeded Tigers knew they had an uphill battle.

"We've been off for a month," Pierce said. "When we saw the seeding came out, we just wanted to get out on the court and see what happens."

Massillon point guard Arianna Berry puts a shot up around Nordonia's Marybella Dunlap during the Tigers' 53-20 loss in a girls basketball Division I sectional final Thursday at Nordonia. [Tim Howard/For the Kent Weeklies]

Massillon started well, as it forced turnovers on Nordonia's first two possessions. The Tigers got layups from seniors Arianna Berry and Kenedi Fisk to take a 4-0 lead.

But Nordonia replied with two consecutive 3-pointers from senior guard Hallie Majoros and the Knights were off and running.

Buckler said it's always a good sign when Majoros can get early baskets. A Wisconsin-Milwaukee recruit, Mahoros finished with a game-high 19 points, including five 3-pointers.

Nordonia led 19-9 after one quarter and only turned up its defense from there, allowing Massillon four points or fewer in the final three quarters.

With the lead secured, Nordonia senior Madi Cluse worked as a facilitator most of the game. Cluse finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds, along with four assists.

"She is able to get her teammates involved in so many ways," Buckler said. "She was looking to set up Carmella Hack all game long."

Berry and Fisk did what they could for the Tigers. Berry's slashing game led to eight points and Fisk's outside shooting led to 10 points. They also took all of Massillon's free throws, going 6-of-10 from the line.

The rest of the Tigers mustered only two points, which Pierce said has been a problem for Massillon.

"We've struggled when we've not been able to find a third or fourth scorer to go with those two," Pierce said.

Ahead 32-12 at the half, The Knights opened the second half on a 9-1 run with Majoros working inside and outside.

Nordonia pushed the lead to as mamny as 35 points early in the fourth quarter, which allowed them to invoke the OHSAA's running-clock rule.

Buckler emptied her bench from there, allowing her reserves to get playing time.

Hack and forward Ella Gorta each had six points for the Knights.

The Knights were without forward Kennedy Syllaba, who suffered a minor ankle injury in practice early in the week. Syllaba said she hoped to be available for the district semifinal.