HOWLAND - There's no way that Newton Falls Tigers coach Roy Sembach could have predicted what happened Monday against the Garfield G-Men.
When the teams met earlier this month, the G-Men were within four points of the lead late in the third quarter. The Tigers then turned it on and won by 24 points.
The Tigers didn't have to sweat out the final details last night. They rolled to a 28-point lead at halftime and went on to post a 77-43 win in a first round game of the Division III district tournament at Howland High School.
"I didn't think we were very intense (in the first game), and I thought we came out much more focused and much more ready to play," Sembach said. "It probably helped us going into tonight that we struggled against them a little bit the last time we played them. It gave us a little bit of an edge to go out there and get after it a little bit."
Balance was a key factor for the Tigers. Eleven players scored as Sembach was able to play everyone on his bench. Cody Dillon didn't have a great shooting night, but the Tigers' leading scorer finished with 13 points. Dale Kernen had 12, and Nate Novotny scored 10.
It was a good first step in what the Tigers hope will be a district title. Newton Falls will play Middlefield Cardinal Friday at 6 p.m.
"It's a tournament game, and it means something," Sembach said. "That's the great thing about high school basketball. No matter how your season has gone, it's like a whole new season no matter what, with a lot of added excitement and pressure."
The Tigers opened strong offensively and took a 25-11 lead into the second quarter. They didn't slow down much in the second quarter, adding another 23 points to lead 48-20 at halftime.
Newton Falls maintained its intensity in the third period. Working with a 62-29 lead through three quarters, Sembach was able to get good looks at his entire roster in the final quarter.
"Right now we're nine deep," Sembach said. "We lost Ozzie Hawkins a few weeks ago. Logan Harrah stepped up and got a few more minutes. He played really well with his intensity on defense. He got his hands on the ball. He got a few steals. I thought he sparked us in the second quarter."
Sembach knows that he will need more scoring from Dillon in future games. He's been the focal point on offense since his freshman season, and it's not about to change now.
"That's another good sign. Cody doesn't have to score 30 points a game for us," Sembach said. "We have guys that can score. When Cody is on, that's really nice. He struggled a little bit shooting tonight. He still did a lot of things. He rebounded and got his hands on the ball. He struggled shooting a little bit. Hopefully that will be back here soon. We're going to need it sooner or later."
Cody Berg scored 17 points for the G-Men.