By Doug Chapin
HUBBARD —Those looking for an up-and-down-the-floor shootout between Hubbard High and Newton Falls on Tuesday night might have been disappointed.
But those who appreciate hard-nosed defense had plenty to see, getting a good look at both man-to-man and zone defenses played the way they should be played.
In the end, the Tigers’ zone won out over Hubbard’s sticky man-to-man and the Tigers pulled out a 46-40 triumph.
“I think some of our turnovers were lackadaisical play on our part a little, and a lot of it was their tough, physical, tight man-to-man defense,” Newton Falls coach Roy Sembach said. “Their man is as tough as any we’ve faced so far and you have to be strong with the ball when you play a team like that.”
Sembach and the Tigers (6-1) stayed with the zone because they didn’t want to get into a running game with the Eagles.
“This [Hubbard] is one of the few teams we don’t want to go up and down the floor with,” Sembach said. “We have a lot of good athleticism and some good speed, but one of the teams we play that might have more, it’s those guys. We figured we were better off being in a zone.
“The lower the score tonight, the more to our liking.”
Hubbard coach Rick Fox said the Tigers did a good job getting back on defense.
“Our offense is geared to our defense and we weren’t able to get it out and push it up the court,” he said. “They sat back in that zone and did a nice job in the zone. We’ve just got to work on getting better fundamentally.”
Newton Falls senior Brian Sole led all scorers with 21 points, shooting five-for-eight from 3-point range. But his four straight free throw conversions in the final 31 seconds were just as important, salting away the victory.
“Brian is one of our very best foul shooters,” Sembach said. “I’m not surprised by Brian’s performance as much as I am disappointed that we didn’t make more foul shots.”
Newton Falls was 10-for-18 from the line, but the Eagles (4-2) were nine-for-18.
Kurtis Drummond scored 14 points and Mike Lopuchovsky 13 for Hubbard. Drummond also had five assists and five steals and Lopuchovsky grabbed nine rebounds, the same number Stephen Page had for Newton Falls.
Hubbard scored the first nine points of the game, and led 11-7 after one quarter. Falls gained control in the second quarter, holding a 22-15 lead at one point before settling for a 24-21 halftime advantage. The Tigers scored the final five points of the third quarter for a 34-29 lead.
Newton Falls’ largest lead in the final quarter was 37-31 with 4:00 remaining. Hubbard scored the next seven points for a short-lived lead, and had the ball with less than two minutes remaining and the score tied 39-39.
Mitch Czerniak came up with a steal for the Tigers and it led to a 3-pointer by Tyler Kernen with 55 seconds left in the game. Kernen followed with a steal and Czerniak had another, as Sole followed each theft with two free throws.
“We wanted to run the offense, be strong with the basketball, see what they give us,” Fox said about the Eagles’ plans for the final two minutes. “We had a set play designed to run, they pressured us a little bit and we just made a lazy pass and turned the ball over.
“They went down and hit a 3, so we figured we’d come down and run the offense, then we make another lazy pass, turn the ball over and before you know it we’re down five and that’s the ballgame.”