For the Star Beacon
All basketball coaches love to see their teams work for good, high percentage shots. When the Newton Falls Tigers visited Falcon Gym on Friday night to battle the Jefferson Falcons, both teams did just that. One team succeeded in that endeavor and one failed.
The Tigers had the hot hand in taking a 64-50 victory over the Falcons.
“Offensively, we did a nice job of taking care of the ball and working our offense for good shots,” interim Newton Falls coach Mike Mazanetz said. “We’ve tried to stress shot selection in practice lately because we haven’t done such a good job of that recently.”
The Tigers put it all together very well against a tough Falcon defense. They hit 23 of 40 shots (57.5 percent) for the game, most from close range, garnering 17 assists for the night.
Ozzie Hawkins led Newton Falls them in scoring with 14 points, but it was his passing over the first three and a half periods that helped his team open a double-digit lead. He then nailed six straight free throws in the last 2:33 of the game to thwart a late Falcon rally.
While many of the Tiger shots were from close range, they broke the game open midway through the first quarter when Chris Greathouse came off the bench after two starters for Newton Falls got into foul trouble and nailed a pair of 3-pointers. Those treys took an 8-3 lead to 14-6 and the Falcons never were able to get over the hump and back in the game.
While making shots was big for Newton Falls, Falcon misses, especially early, also helped decide the contest.
“Newton Falls has some good ball handlers,” Jefferson coach Jeremy Huber said. “They always play hard and have a great tradition of doing just that. They worked the ball around enough to get good shots, and they made them.”
The Falcons also did a solid job of working the ball around the floor. Getting their shots to fall was a different story. Jefferson had 51 attempts, but only 17 dropped for a 33.3 percent night. A 5-of-22 first half proved to be too much of an obstacle to overcome, but they tried valiantly.
“We missed way too many layups tonight,” Huber said. “We had some really good shots, especially early, that didn’t drop for us, but we really tried hard all night.”
Mazanetz, while happy with his offensive showing, also
noted the Falcon chances with the ball that didn’t drop.
“I think, defensively, we got into some ruts during the game that hurt us,” he said. “We just couldn’t keep them (Jefferson) from penetrating up the middle. We had some defensive lapses when they scored inside, but we also were fortunate that their shots weren’t falling.”
Balance wsa the key for Newton Falls (6-7, 4-1 in All-American Conference). Hawkins led them in scoring with 14 points, including 8 of 8 from the line in the last 8:32 of the game. His nine assists also the team.
Greathouse added 11, including a trio of treys, Jarrod Crowder chipped in with 12, 10 in the second half on 4-5 shooting in the third period, and Jaden Walton and Mike Staton each had nine.
The Falcons couldn’t hit the easy shots they had in the first period, got behind by double digits much of the ball game, but made it tight in the fourth. They cut the lead to eight, 45-37, after three periods as Brett Powers hit a layup off a pass from Jacob Hamilton at the buzzer to facilitate a conventional three-point play, but Hawkins sealed the deal and killed every Falcon thrust in the last quarter as Jefferson falls to 4-9, 2-4.
Powers tallied 14 points before fouling out with a minute to play. Jacob Adams played a power game inside with 12 points and five rebounds and Lucas Hitchcock added nine points.
“I felt Brett played a solid game for us,” Huber said. “We just missed way too many layups.”
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.