By ERIC CLUTTER | CORRESPONDENT
Coming off a close three-point home loss to Norton, Kent Roosevelt took on former league foe Cuyahoga Falls on Tuesday night.
The Black Tigers, a solid team that has authored league wins over Stow and Hudson, also lost to Norton -- 77-74 in overtime on opening night.
So, perhaps it wasn't surprising that this tangle at spacious Falls Gymnasium was close throughout. It wasn't until the fourth quarter that Falls was able to pull away, then held on at the end to come away with a 68-58 decision.
Seven Roosevelt fourth-quarter turnovers, including a pair of miscues at the outset of the frame, helped the Black Tigers (8-2) expand a six-point lead to 11 on three separate occasions -- the last time being 60-49 with under four minutes to play.
The Rough Riders made one final rush, reeling off seven unanswered tallies to draw within four points with 2:03 remaining. Following a Falls' giveaway, the visitors had a chance to pull within two or maybe one point, but turned the ball over with 1:22 to go.
Falls' Angelo Cugini, who paced everyone with 28 points, hit a pair of free tosses to widen the margin to 62-56, but Roosevelt's Spencer Neubert came right back with a tear-drop down the lane with 58 ticks left. That would be Roosevelt's final tallies of the evening.
Nick Winar, who had not scored and not played much the entire game, calmly sank two free tosses with 49 seconds left to seal his team's eighth win of the year.
Roosevelt, which fell to 6-5 overall, had four players in double figures, led by Myles Wright with 23 and Joseph Watts with 12. Wright pulled down 17 boards and Watts had 13 as the Rough Riders enjoyed a 42-31 edge on the glass.
But it was the fourth-quarter turnovers and some missed shots from close range that proved to be Roosevelt's undoing.
"We missed some opportunities," said second-year Riders coach Ben Dunlap. "I thought we missed some point-blank shots that Myles and Joe ... I watch them every day in practice make those shots. I thought we did what we wanted do when we entered the ball in with the pass. We tried to dribble a little too far and had some costly turnovers.
"I told the guys in the locker room, this is a very, very good, quality team that Falls has. And this wasn't a 10-point game. We started fouling (late), and that is how it got to 10 points. I couldn't be happier with the guys. I thought we played our best halfcourt defense in the first half that I've seen all year."
Neither team was able to create any separation in the opening half. The Black Tigers established a 7-2 edge in the first four minutes, only to see the Rough Riders rally and pull within 15-14 after one quarter.
The teams traded the lead several times in the second frame, and the hosts went to the locker room ahead 31-29.
The game featured a nice battle between big men Wright and Cugini, each of whom scored 13 points in the first 16 minutes.
"Myles plays a lot like him," said Dunlap, comparing the two pivot-men. "(Cugini) is an inside-out guy, he rebounds, and they are both long. I thought Myles held his own against him. Cugini got his share of shots, too, and I thought Myles really did a great job battling him, making him work. Myles is doing a great job for us."
The Black Tigers came out strong to start the second half, riding nine points from Josh Ricker to open up a nine-point lead. But Watts' six points kept his team close, and the Rough Riders were still within a half-dozen with eight minutes to play.
Neubert and Phillip Grant each scored 10 points for Roosevelt, which finished with 17 turnovers.
Ricker finished with 14, and teammate Jay Slone contributed 13 points for Cuyahoga Falls.