Hot shooting night leads Tigers to win

NEWTON FALLS – Following the encounter between Newton Falls and Chalker on Saturday night, Chalker coach Mike Karr interrupted a question about Newton Falls’ shooting performance from beyond the arc when hearing it described as “lights out.”

“You think?” he said with a sarcastic laugh.

Karr had a pretty good reason for the response. The Tigers put a shooting clinic at Gene Zorn Gymnasium, going 14 of 26 from beyond the arc and shot just less than 50 percent from the field en route to a rout of the Wildcats, 77-48. The 14-made 3-pointers was a season-high for Newton Falls, eclipsing the 13-mark set during a win over Crestwood on Dec. 17.

Newton Falls coach Roy Sembach said he expects the Tigers (7-8) to shoot as well as they did against the Wildcats (5-11), but the team has struggled with consistently putting on performances like this one.

“We’re very capable of shooting very well,” Sembach said. “I’m never surprised if they make a bunch. It’s very common for us to make seven, eight, nine, 10 2s on any given night. When we make less than that, it’s actually disappointing because one of our strengths is our outside shooting.”

The biggest contributions came from the Waltons, Jaden and Derek, who combined for 10 of the Tigers’ makes from distance with five each.

After making just one of the team’s first five 3-pointers in the first quarter, but Jaden and Derek changed that from the 2:56 to the 1:55 marks. On three-straight possessions, Jaden hit two treys and Derek added another to close out a 15-1 run for the Tigers that gave them a 23-8 lead. The two combined for a similar stretch late in the third when Jaden drained a 3 at the 2:41 mark and Derek connected on two in a row to extend the Tigers’ lead to 21 points with 1:53 remaining in the period.

Jaden finished with a game-high 19 points, while Derek scored 15.

“They’re both capable, but Jaden especially has been in a slump shooting,” Sembach said. “He shot very well the first eight or nine games of the season. So, he came out of it big time.

“Derek’s been a little more consistent, but he usually doesn’t get that many 3s. It takes him a little bit more time, and tonight, he got it and he just did a great job knocking them down.”

The 3-point shooting effort allowed the Tigers to get over an off night by Ozzie Hawkins, who fell short of his 19 points-per-game average with 15. The 6-foot-2 senior sat out six-and-a-half minutes of the third and parts of the second and fourth quarters because of foul trouble.

Hawkins said he didn’t mind spending time on the bench, cheering on his teammates’ big nights.

“It was a lot of fun just seeing my teammates smile – that’s what I love the best, to see my teammates smile,” Hawkins said. “I know it was a tough game for myself, but my teammates really picked it up. I actually love being a cheerleader for them and giving them enthusiasm.”

Karr said the Wildcats were prepared to stop players like Hawkins who like to drive the lane, but they didn’t do enough to stop the Tigers from getting wide-open looks.

“We were a little bit slow on rotation, and give this team clean looks, they’re going to knock them down,” Karr said. “We knew we’d have a hard time handling their dribble-drive. We were trying to concentrate on making them stay out of the lane, and they did a nice job finding open guys and obviously knocking them down.”

For Newton Falls, it’s all about bottling up a performance like this and repeating it on a more consistent basis, especially in close games.

“(Sembach)’s been telling us all season that he expects this from us,” Hawkins said. “He’s not surprised at all. It’s just a matter of consistency.”