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Cuyahoga Falls boys win a thriller, then lose playoff thriller

By MICHAEL LEONARD Sports Editor Published: March 5, 2017 12:00 AM
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Cuyahoga Falls boys basketball closed its regular season and opened its postseason with a pair of dramatic contests.

Unfortunately for Falls, its postseason drama lasted only one game.

On Senior Night for Falls Feb. 24, senior Nick Siegferth's putback layup with 15 seconds left in overtime proved the difference, as the Black Tigers pulled out a 48-44 win over Twinsburg.

However, on March 1 at the Coach Tom Jones Court, Falls spotted Nordonia a 9-1 lead to start the game, rallied to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but ended up losing 58-56 in a Division I sectional playoff game.

The Black Tigers finished the season at 10-13. Falls closed the regular season on a three-game win streak and finished 4-10 in the Suburban League National Conference.

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Falls coach Kenny Johnson was emotional after the Nordonia loss.

"I just told the I was proud of them," Johnson said. "Any possession could have turned the game in our favor. I love these kids."

After the Twinsburg game, Johnson lauded hit team sticking with it.

"[Twinsburg] hit shots when they needed to," Johnson said. "If we hit our free throws, it doesn't come to that. I'm so proud of our guys, though. It feels great to get a win on Senior Night."

Siegferth, center Troy Tofil and guards Ka'Von Gainer and Nate Vassalotti were honored before the Twinsburg game. The senior quartet accounted for all but 12 of Falls' points on the night.

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Twinsburg took a 12-9 lead after one quarter, thanks to three-pointers from guards Michael Moore and Mike Cusma.

The two teams then combined for just three field goals in the second quarter. Twinsburg took a 17-15 lead into the half.

Although Tofil finished with another double-double --12 points and 16 rebounds -- before fouling out in overtime, Johnson bemoaned the fact his team did not get the ball to its center enough, particularly in the first half.

Johnson noted the fact forward Dion Davis was saddled with foul trouble for most of the contest shut down much of Falls' high-low post game.

Johnson's call to feed the post resonated in the third quarter, as Tofil scored eight of his 12 points in the quarter, keying a 10-4 run to give Falls a 25-21 lead.

Falls maintained the momentum at the end of the third quarter, taking a 31-27 lead after three.

The momentum swings didn't start in earnest until the fourth quarter.

After a layup by Falls guard JaQuan Campbell to start the fourth, Twinsburg found its range from distance, while Falls lost its free-throw touch. The result was a 10-1 Twinsburg run, which gave the Tigers a 37-34 lead.

With Davis back in the game, Falls answered with an 8-0 run over its own, keyed by a pair of layups by Gainer.

Falls seemed to things under control when Johnson called time-out with 1:06 left and Falls leads leading 42-37.

But it wasn't over.

First, Moore hit a 15-foot jumper, followed by a quick foul to Vassalotti, who split his free throws.

Then, Moore banked home a three-pointer to cut the lead to 43-42. Vassalotti was fouled and again he split two free throws.

Not calling time-out, Twinsburg attacked with less than 15 seconds left. Despite a hand in his face, Twinsburg guard Leroy Fitzgerald hit a turnaround jumper from the baseline with four seconds left, tying the game at 44-44 and forcing Johnson to call time-out.

Campbell's three-point attempt at the buzzer was well wide, sending it to overtime.

After such a frenetic fourth quarter, Twinsburg chose to hold the ball in overtime. A two-minute possession ended with Moore getting fouled, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one situation.

Falls also was deliberate with its possession, but when Tofil's shot was off the mark, Siegferth hit the game-winning bucket off a backside rebound with about 15 seconds left.

Twinsburg again attacked down the floor. After missing its initial shot, Moore rebounded and was fouled with 2.9 seconds left.

However, Moore missed both free throws and Falls was awarded possession after a loose ball.

After Davis was fouled on the ensuing inbounds play, he nailed both free throws to ice the game.

Gainer led all scorers with 16 points, while Davis added eight.

Meanwhile on March 1, Nordonia looked like it might run away with game the early, as center Ryan Smith keyed a 9-1 Knights run to start the contest.

Falls steadied the ship a bit, but the Knights still led 15-8 after one quarter.

Three-point shooting was a key for the Knights, as Nordonia would hit eight 3-pointers on the night, compared to just one for Falls.

"In the first half, they were 6-of-7 from three-point land," Johnson said. "We spent a lot of energy on trying to get back in the game."

Mike Piotrowski hit three 3-pointers in the second quarter alone, as the Knights led by as much as 27-14 with three minutes left in the half.

Falls was able to cut the lead a bit, as Tofil beat the buzzer with a layup, cutting the lead to 29-20 at the half.

Nordonia still led 40-30 midway through the third quarter, but the Knights started to lose their composure.

Gainer keyed a 7-0 run for the Black Tigers, cutting the lead to three. Gainer scored 20 of his game-high 22 points after halftime.

Falls trailed 45-40 after three quarters, but seemed to have the momentum.

With just under five minutes, Gainer drew a foul and Nordonia forward Luke Alders was called for a technical foul. Gainer hit all four free throws to make it 51-48 Nordonia.

Campbell then hit a layup and two free throws to give Falls its first lead at 52-51.

Smith then split a pair of free throws to make it 52-52 with 3:19 left in the game.

Gainer then hit a backdoor cut for a layup, but Nordonia forward Tye Evans was the hero down the stretch.

Evans went 6-of-6 from the line in the fourth quarter and hit a layup to make it 56-54 Knights.

A putback layup from Tofil tied it at 56-56 with a minute to go. Tofil had 18 points and nine rebounds on the night.

On Nordonia's next possession, Evans was fouled while shooting. He hit both free throws to make it 58-56 with 28 seconds left.

Falls called three time-outs in the last 28 seconds, the last of which came with 3.5 seconds left as Smith deflected the ball out of bounds.

Gainer got the ball on the inbounds, but with Evans in his face, his three-point attempt banged off the rim as time expired.

Evans finished with 20 points on the night, while Piotrowski had 14 and Smith had 13 for the Knights.

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

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