By Steve Ruman
Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder.
Therefore, it is understandable how the opposing coaches in Friday’s Newton Falls-Niles game were able to view the contest as both a work of art and a work in progress.
Of course, they also say there is no such thing as an ugly win. So perhaps that explains why Red Dragons coach Ron Price saw the good side in a 49-47 Niles win.
The contest was the season opener for both clubs. It also marked the return of Price, who guided the Niles program from 1999 to 2006.
Kymone Gamble did his best to make sure Price’s return was a triumphant one. The senior scored a career-high 17 points. Senior Ray Russ, who led Niles in scoring a year ago, added 12 points.
Gamble and Russ are the only two seniors on the Dragons’ roster.
“Kymone and Ray bought into everything we’ve done since day one,” Price said. “They’ve been totally unselfish. We need these two to provide leadership if we’re going to succeed, and tonight they both stepped up.”
Newton Falls was paced by senior Dale Kernen’s 14 points. He also pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds. Junior Chris Greathouse chipped in with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Tigers were hindered by poor shooting.
“We are going to rely heavily on Dale (Kernen) and Ozzie (Hawkins) to score points this year, and they were a combined 7 of 31,” Newton Falls coach Roy Sembach said. “We just seemed to have the opening-night jitters. This was a typical opening-night performance in many ways.”
Early on, both offenses were in midseason form. The first quarter saw nine lead changes, and ended with the teams tied at 20.
While the scoring slowed down from the second period on, the pace of the game remained up-tempo.
“I think you just had two teams really going at it, and really stepping up defensively,” Price said. “From start to finish, it was a great high school basketball game. Two teams battling it out.”
Niles led 33-28 at the break, and maintained a slim lead through most of the third quarter. Newton Falls eventually took a 42-41 lead on a Logan Harrah jumper three minutes into the fourth period. The Tigers extended their lead to 43-41 on a Kernen free throw, but Russ answered with a three-pointer.
Newton Falls took its final lead of the night on a Kernen basket with three minutes left. However, Niles again responded with a three – this time from Gamble.
The Red Dragons received free throws from Russ and Jimmy Mullen in the final seconds to go up 49-47. Newton Falls had an opportunity to tie the game when Mike Staton was fouled with two seconds on the clock. After missing the first free throw, Staton intentionally missed the second, hoping for an offensive rebound. However, the Tigers were called for a lane violation.