GRANGER TWP. — The Highland boys basketball team’s shooting was as frigid as the weather Tuesday night. As a result, it lost the Battle of Route 94 to North Royalton 57-46 in non-league action.
With the outside temperature less than 10 degrees, the field goal percentage of the Hornets (8-6) wasn’t that much better, as they connected on only 24.5 percent (13-of-53).
They were consistent, too, going 6-of-26 in the first half and 7-of-27 in the second.
“That was our downfall tonight — our shooting,” Highland coach Michael Murphy said. “We played very good defense against a really good team and held them below their (season) average (67.5), but we couldn’t shoot a lick. (The ball) just wouldn’t go in the basket.”
Along with the bricks, a huge run over the second and third quarters by the Bears (13-1) was the difference. In a little more than 7 minutes, North Royalton turned an 18-15 lead into 37-20.
“That run was the key part of the game for us,” Bears coach Tim Matus said, “We needed that 17-point cushion because Highland gathered themselves after that and kept the pressure on us the rest of the game.”
Doing the most damage was Travis Tarnowski, as he scored 10 of his game-high 18 points during the run. The senior guard also led North Royalton in rebounds (6) and assists (4).
The name should sound familiar to Highland fans, as Tarnowski also shredded their football team for 303 yards total offense and six touchdowns in a wild 56-51 win last fall.
“He’s just a born leader,” Matus said. “He sets the table for us and supplies the spark, but we have a well-balanced attack with different players stepping up each night.”
Murphy agreed the turning point was that 7-minute stretch.
“With seconds to go in the half and down nine, we missed the front end of a one-and-one and they come down and hit a buzzer shot,” he said. “At the start of the third quarter, we come out with five diagramed plays and ran them to perfection, except we miss all five open shots while North Royalton goes 3-for-3 on their plays, with two being 3-pointers.”
Behind the play of sophomores Brogan Scott (12 points, 5 rebounds) and Tanner Houska (10, 4 assists, 3 steals) and senior Austin Adams (9, 11 rebounds), the Hornets made a couple of runs down the stretch.
They closed to 44-36 midway through the final period, but Logan Chuppa (10 points) hit one of the Bears’ seven 3-pointers.
With 2 minutes left, Highland got within 49-41, but the Bears were able to control the ball and closed the game by converting eight free throws.
The highlight of the evening was the Highland junior varsity’s 56-53 win over previously undefeated North Royalton. Zach Levine (game-high 22 points) and Billy Kirchner (10) each converted two free throws in the final minute to seal it.
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