N. Falls 52
By Doug Chapin
It turns out three times is not the charm. At least not at the Division III boys basketball district tournament at Howland High.
A third straight meeting between LaBrae High and Newton Falls High in the district championship game will not happen after the second-seeded Tigers dropped a 59-52 decision Wednesday night to Burton Berkshire.
Top-seeded LaBrae and unseeded Berkshire will play Saturday at 3 p.m. for the district title and a berth in the regional at Canton. Newton Falls beat LaBrae in the title game last season, after LaBrae won the title in 2009 over the Tigers.
On Wednesday, Berkshire (14-8) outscored Newton Falls 33-19 in the middle two quarters to take control of the game.
“I don’t like how we played defense in the first half,” Newton Falls coach Roy Sembach. “Then offensively I thought when we got behind in the third quarter we tried to play too fast. It was one guy dribble and shoot or maybe one pass and a shot. I thought we panicked offensively because we were not disciplined defensively.
“To Berkshire’s credit, they executed well, they were patient. I thought they played with more poise than we did throughout the night.”
The Badgers, led by a 21-point, 17-rebound performance by 6-foot-7 junior Tim Goff, overcame a 17-12 deficit after one quarter to lead 28-26 at halftime. They stretched the advantage to 45-36 after three quarters.
Falls was within three points twice, 47-44 with 5:42 remaining and 54-51 at the 1:00 mark. The Badgers, just 13-for-21 from the line for the game, converted when it counted making seven of their last eight free throw attempts to put the game away.
“You have to have the one-possession-at-a-time mentality whether you are ahead or behind,” Sembach said. “It’s easier to do it when you’re ahead. I thought we were trying to score nine points in one possession and get three stops when they had the ball once. You can only play one possession at a time.”
Goff, who shot 9-for-13 from the floor, had plenty of help as Travis Smetana added 18 points, Kyle Blair dished out six assists and Tim Ludlow scored 12 points.
Probably just as important was the defensive effort by Kevin Hix and Tim Miller who took turns guarding Newton Falls’ top scorer Cody Dillon. The Badgers held Dillon to seven points on 3-for-11 shooting, including 0-for-5 from 3-point range.
Senior guard Tyler Kernen picked up the slack for the Tigers (18-5) with a 31-point performance on 9-for-17 shooting.
“It’s nice to see a senior go out with a game like that, but Tyler has really played well over the last four or five weeks,” Sembach said. “He’s probably been averaging 13 or 14 points the last few weeks and he really took it to the next level tonight. They were denying Cody all over the place and Tyler did a nice job of getting the ball, getting open and finishing. He had a great basketball game and it’s good to go out with a game like that.”
Besides losing Kernen, the Tigers will be without longtime assistant coach Tom Shaulis who is moving out of state.
“Tom has basically been my co-coach the last 20 years,” Sembach said. “I think he’s the best assistant coach around and we’re going to miss him dearly. It will be a big loss to our program.”