By Doug Chapin
NEWTON FALLS — Defense, specifically half-court defense, had been a concern of veteran Newton Falls High boys basketball coach Roy Sembach.
Friday night, in an All-American Conference Blue Division opener against Girard, Sembach kept his Tigers in a half-court defense for the first quarter. The move paid off as Falls outscored the Indians 20-8 in the first quarter on the way to a 70-43 triumph.
“We were man when we didn’t score and zone when we scored. Since we scored a lot it actually looked like we were in zone most of the time,” Sembach said. “We had been pressing a lot to start games and I wanted to see our team play some half-court defense first.
“So in that first quarter we were all half-court defense, and I was satisfied with the effort there,” Sembach said. “Then we turned them loose a little bit and let them get after it full-court.”
The Tigers (4-1, 1-0 AAC Blue) led 38-16 at halftime and 52-26 after three quarters.
Newton Falls shot a blistering 52 percent (24-of-46) from the floor, including 43 percent (9-of-21) from 3-point range.
Senior Brian Sole led the offense with 19 points. C.J. Peaco scored 10, Cody Dillon and Mitch Czerniak had nine each and Tyler Kernan scored eight. Dillon also had four assists, seven rebounds and four steals.
“I think we took some major steps improving our team in the last couple days,” Sembach said. “I am by far the most satisfied with this performance as I have with any game we’ve played so far. At both ends of the floor, I thought we improved greatly from our first few games.
“I was not happy at all with our half-court defense, especially the last couple games,” Sembacj said. “I thought we did a much better job coming out and defending early on.
“Offensively, I thought we were too much dribble and go nowhere, take tough shots, the first couple games. Tonight, I was very satisfied with how we moved the ball, attacking the paint, kick the ball out, we made the extra pass, we worked the ball inside-out.”
Girard got 12 points from Adam Charles and 11 from Joe Augustine.
The Indians (1-4, 0-1 AAC Blue) have struggled the first part of the season under first-year head coach Nick Cochran, a former standout player for Girard.
“I think it’s been steady, it’s been a consistent . . . bad. It’s been bad,” Cochran said about the lack of progress his team has shown thus far. “But the kids keep on showing up and that’s the big thing. They keep on coming to practice, they keep on working.
“We’re trying to win quarters now, we’re trying to get a positive out of it,” Cochran said. “I know we were close to getting the third and fourth quarters tonight.
“The kids have to just keep working, they’ve got to believe. They’ve got to get back to the past a little bit, the old Girard basketball.
“It’s hard for them to understand that right now but I think by midseason they’ll start to pick it up and start to realize that and we’ll get better.”
Sembach said he and his coaching staff emphasized to the players that Friday’s game was the first Blue Division game.
“I’m not sure why we play the first league game now and then play four other games before our next league game,” he said. “But, yes, it’s important and it kind of sneaks up on you. We told the team before the game that after tonight we’ll either be in first place or last place and not have a chance to do anything about it for another month. So we did place emphasis on tonight being a league game.”