The Chagrin Falls beat Kenston to take a share of the lead in the CVC Chagrin Division.
In a contest that matched two teams who hadn’t lost a game since early December, this neighborhood rivalry lived up to the hype as a large crowd filled into Chagrin Falls High School on a chilly January evening.
Those who paid admission got their money’s worth during this CVC Chagrin battle with title implications.
Chagrin Falls entered the game on a nine-game winning streak, with their last loss coming on Dec. 7. Kenston was on its own nine-game winning streak, having gone without a defeat since Dec. 20.
Kenston was the team that handed Chagrin Falls their last loss in December, 46-36. But this time around, the night belong to the Tigers as they defeated the Bombers, 36-33.
“I’ve said this many times — I love this game,” Chagrin coach Dave Bargar. “There is great competition between these two schools. I think the coaches have great respect for each other. We have respect for the other program. It shows when we play each other.”
The Bombers struck first, similar to the first meeting, with a 12-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. They would take a 25-17 lead into halftime, led by senior Joe Simmons seven first half points.
“Coming into the locker room, we spoke about keeping our composure,” said Bargar. “They played their games in runs, and they had two really nice ones today. But I thought we did a good job of keeping our composure and not panicking, and just doing what we need to do.”
The Tigers would overcome an eight-point deficit nearly all in one quarter. They were able to cut the lead to five, 29-24, with about three minutes remaining in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Nate Diedrich.
With 2:26 left in the third quarter, Chagrin Falls’ Jack Karyo cut the lead to 29-26.
The Tigers then put their foot on the pedal and wouldn’t let up, scoring the game’s next 11 points. Saywer McGuire started the scoring, hitting a three with 52 seconds left in the third quarter to make it a 31-29 game.
After Karyo was fouled, as time expired in the third quarter, he split a pair of free throws, making it 31-30 Kenston heading into the fourth quarter.
The Tigers would tie the game after Karyo split a pair of free throws at the 6:08 mark, and finally they would take the lead with 5:41 remaining in the game and wouldn’t give it up. Sawyer McGuire would hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to 36-31.
That is when the emotion of the night took over for Kenston as they were assessed a technical foul with 3:08 remaining in the game. This led to the Tigers’ McGuire splitting a pair of free throws, but also extending the Tigers lead to 37-31.
Since the Diedrich 3-pointer with 3:12 remaining in the third quarter, the Tigers went on a 16-2 run. McGuire led the way during the stretch, scoring seven points including two momentum shifting three pointers.
After over seven scoreless minutes, Kenston would pull back within one point behind junior guard Bernie Porter. He broke the scoreless streak with a basket, and then hit a 3-pointer off of a Tiger turnover to cut the lead to 37-36 with 2:20 remaining in the game.
The game would come down to the final 11 seconds of regulation. With Kenston leading 37-36, the Bombers retained possession and used their final timeout of the night.
The Bombers’ attempted inbound pass was stolen by McGuire, who was subsequently fouled. He converted both free throws to give the Tigers a 39-36 lead with four seconds left.
When speaking about the defensive sequence that clinched the game, McGuire said: “We were going to man up. I think there were six fouls, so we didn’t have any fouls to give. So we were going to man up, play tough D. I was guarding the guy out — he was my man. I just got up on him, looked for a deflection and I got one.”
“They (Kenston) put a lot of emphasis on shutting down him (McGuire),” Bargar said. “He is our leading scorer, assists, and rebounds. I told him during one part of the game not to force it, let the game come to you. If it doesn’t, your going to do things to help us win.”
The Bombers would then get another shot with four seconds left, but the Tigers would steal the ball again off the inbounds, this time by Karyo.
He would hold the ball as the final seconds ran out, and then he was mobbed by teammates and members of The Zoo, the Chagrin Falls student section.
With the win, Chagrin Falls improved to 12-1 and 5-1 in the Chagrin Valley Conference. The Tigers then defeated Aurora 61-40 on Friday night to further their record to 13-1 and 6-1 in the CVC.
“It’s a huge win,” McGuire said. “It means the world to us. We play for it all offseason. It’s what motivates us. We know the CVC is going to come down to us and Kenston most years, so it’s what keeps us going.”
Chagrin Falls was led by Karyo, who finished the night with 13 points. Fellow juniors McGuire and Diedrich finished with nine points each.
Kenston drops to 12-3 on the season and 6-1 in the CVC. The Bombers last loss had come 33 days ago to Solon.
Junior Jimmy Artale scored 11 points to lead the Bombers. Porter and Simmons contributed seven points each on the night.
With a season series split, both teams now control their own destiny in terms of retaining a share of the CVC Championship. Kenston has five conference games remaining, and the Tigers still have six conference games left.
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