Newton Falls uses rally to 'TAC' on league title

The Tigers can earn a share of the league title with a win over Badger.
& lt;a & gt;By PETE MOLLICA & lt;/a & gt;
NEWTON FALLS -- For the first three quarters, Newton Falls senior John Sekora didn't score a point or grab a rebound in the Tigers' Trumbull Athletic Conference battle against Lakeview.
But in the final period, Sekora scored all seven of his points, including a 3-point shot that tied the game, and also added four clutch free throws as the Tigers upended previously undefeated Lakeview 50-47 before a standing-room-only crowd Friday night.
The Tigers (17-2, 14-1 TAC) trailed the Bulldogs by eight points, 40-32, to begin the final period and it took them all of six minutes to finally catch up when Sekora drained a long 3-point shot with two minutes remaining to deadlock the contest 43-43.
Moments later, the 6-3 standout went to the foul line and made both free throws to give the Tigers the lead for keeps, 45-43, and move to within a half-game of the Bulldogs, who finished their season 19-1, 15-1 TAC.
The Tigers have one league game remaining with Badger next Friday and with a victory would share the TAC championship with the Bulldogs.
"I was so focused at the line it was unbelievable," said Sekora. "I really didn't even think about what was on the line."
When asked what he felt was the difference in the contest, he added, "Heart was the difference; that's what won the game for us, we had more heart."
Lakeview, which struggled in the early moments of the opening quarter, took its first lead midway in the second quarter and held the lead until the final two minutes.
"We tightened up a little at the end," said Lakeview coach Larry Herrholtz. "Newton Falls played great defense tonight."
Newton Falls coach Roy Sembach agreed.
"We played a man-to-man defense in the first quarter, but switched to a match-up zone in the second and third quarters because they are so deep on the bench we were trying to save our legs," Sembach said.
"Then in the final period we went back to the man-to-man and that was the difference. That's our best defense," he added.
In the clutch
The Tigers held the Bulldogs to eight points in the first period and seven in the final quarter with the man-to-man. The Bulldogs scored 32 points in the second and third quarters.
"Everybody knew that Lakeview was a great basketball team, but we knew that we were pretty good, also," Sembach said. "I challenged John [Sekora] and Jeff [Stanley] at halftime and they came through in the clutch."
Stanley led all scorers with 21 points, including 10 of 14 from the foul line, six of those in the final quarter.
Newton Falls came out quickly and jumped to an 11-2 first quarter lead, before the Bulldogs cut the margin to 15-8 at the end of the quarter.
"I told our kids to just relax a little. I knew that this was going to be close before it ended," Herrholtz said.
Sembach said that he wasn't surprised by the early lead.
"I knew the game was going to come back. I would have been more surprised if we had held that lead all the way," he said.
Back and forth
Trailing 17-14 in the second period, the Bulldogs reeled off six straight points to take a 20-17 lead, their first of the game. They led 24-22 at halftime.
Lakeview opened the third period with an 11-4 run and opened a nine-point advantage, 35-26 with 4:17 remaining. They still led by eight, 40-32, after three quarters.
Stanley opened the final period with a 3-point goal and Troy Balint followed with a free throw to cut the lead to 40-36. After Stanley connected on four straight free throws to close to within one, 41-40, Jeff Ellens scored for Lakeview with 2:45 left to up the margin to three again.
But then Sekora unleashed his lone 3-pointer to tie the game and after a Lakeview turnover Sekora was fouled and calmly sank both shots to put the Tigers on top for keeps.
The game was still up for grabs in the final seconds as the Bulldogs got to within one point, 48-47, on a bucket by Mike Olesh, who led the team with 13 points.
But Sekora was fouled with six seconds remaining and again hit both shots and Matt Nero's final attempt at the buzzer was off the mark.
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