COPLEY: Behind by five points with just 1:13 remaining, the Cuyahoga Falls boys basketball team turned up its defensive intensity and went on a 7-0 run to finish the game, stunning host Copley 44-42 on Tuesday night.
With just minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Black Tigers trailed 33-29 and then 42-37. But they repeatedly rallied and ultimately prevailed.
“I told them it’s a five-point game. This is anybody’s game still,” Cuyahoga Falls coach Rob Slone said. “We caught them with a press we hadn’t used all game and got them to turn the ball over.”
Slone told his players to attack the basket when they had the ball instead of settling for 3-pointers.
“It’s not desperation time,” Slone said. “It was only a five-point game.
“They have to come out and guard us. And if they come out and guard us, they are going to foul us, and we are going to get to the free-throw line.”
The final quarter became a back-and-forth struggle with both teams trading small runs. In the end, missed opportunities haunted the Indians.
“Unfortunately, we missed some free throws down the stretch and a couple layups,” Copley coach Mark Dente said. … “We were one stop away from winning the game.”
Cuyahoga Falls (6-4) knew it would be in for a tough test from the beginning, and that quickly became apparent as Copley (4-6) raced out to a 12-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Slone said his team isn’t comfortable playing at a slower pace. Copley’s effective zone defense, though, prevented Cuyahoga Falls from running an up-tempo attack.
“We became stagnate,” Slone said. “Luckily for us, Josh Ricker got free and made a couple of shots that kept us in it.”
Ricker scored a team-high 16 points, including some crucial baskets in the second quarter.
Copley guard Jayln Tyler set the tone early on his way to a team-high 18 points, and the Indians seemed to be in control. But just as the Indians had done in the first quarter, the Black Tigers were the aggressors as they stepped up on defense and shut down the Indians in the second quarter.
Dente said the Indians’ zone defense proved effective, but he pointed to the problems his team had in the second quarter when it encountered a scoring drought. Cuyahoga Falls outscored Copley 14-2 in the second quarter and led 17-14 at halftime.
Slone said the Black Tigers were able to push the ball more in the second after the Indians stopped playing zone.
“We got to play more up tempo, and our goal is to play up tempo as much as we can,” Slone said.
However, the Indians showed they weren’t going away quietly, especially at home. Copley won the defensive struggle in the third quarter and outscored Cuyahoga Falls 12-10, trimming the Indians’ deficit to 27-26 entering the final quarter.
But the Black Tigers’ dramatic run in crunch time was the difference. They were able to make such a large turnaround late in the game partly because of the play of Angelo Cugini. He scored 13 points, helping Cuyahoga Falls withstand various scoring runs made by Copley.