In what could have been a "trap game" for the Twinsburg boys basketball team, the Tigers won a non-league road battle 65-51 at neighboring Aurora Dec. 28.
Always an annual test, Twinsburg-Aurora is a good rivalry and the Tigers impressed by bringing their lunch pail to move to 5-2 overall.
A youthful squad, Aurora has first-year coach Jim Wallish helping the Greenmen (1-6) down the path to success.
"It was a workmanlike win for us and Aurora's coach is in his first year putting his program in place," said Twinsburg coach Bob Pacsi. "Like anything else, it takes hard work and time."
"We executed some things well and we had a lot of balance," he added. "When we keep our turnovers down like we did, we can be tough to beat."
The Tigers had 14 turnovers and only six in the second half.
A 17-7 first half run put Twinsburg up 31-21 on a free throw by senior guard Jalen Washington with 2:26 left in the first half, which was won by the Tigers 32-25.
Aurora battled early and led 9-3 after a driving hoop by junior guard Paul Kollat with 5:32 left in the first stanza. Twinsburg led 18-16 after one quarter and started to dominate the boards from that point.
Using its bench play, Twinsburg pushed the lead to 43-30 with 4:22 left in the third period when sophomore Jarette Gardenhire converted an offensive rebound hoop.
Gardenhire grabbed the board and in one single motion, put up the shot as the first year guard is making strides.
The Greenmen had one more run left and used it to outscore the Tigers 12-6 to cut into the Twinsburg lead at 49-42 going into the final quarter.
Five points off the bench by Aurora senior forward Nick Reminder helped in that 12-6 spurt.
A Ben Branscom bucket on a feed from Reminder cut Twinsburg's lead to 49-44 with 7:41 left in the game.
However, Twinsburg outscored the Greenmen 16-9 from that point on to seal the win. The Tigers out rebounded Aurora 30-19.
A huge 8-0 spurt after Branscom's hoop, surged the Tigers past Aurora as senior guard Cooper Rea had an offensive rebound hoop and then had a steal that led to a Tallin Johnson layup.
"We moved the ball around well and we like to make small goals for each game, and this one was to get 10 deflections," said Pacsi. "We got 13 deflections and got on the boards."
"Collectively, our shot selection was good and it showed as we had 21 assists."
Senior A.J. Edwards had a solid outing for the Tigers with 16 points, 10 rebounds, four blocked shots, two assists, one steal, and had a three-pointer. Edwards didn't force any shots and had a thunderous first half dunk.
Washington netted 14 points and dished out four assists, had two thefts and a block. Rea added eight points and two steals.
Pacsi marveled over his point guard Washington, saying, "There were times out there that Jalen made defensive match up decisions [on the court] before I conveyed them."
Bench play was critical for the Tigers as junior forward Marcus Wallace, Johnson, and sophomore guard Shane Farmer played well on both ends.
Wallace scored six points and snagged seven rebounds.
Johnson, a junior guard, hit for six points, six boards and three assists while Farmer played strong defense, and buried his only shot attempt -- a three-pointer.
Gardenhire scored seven points and was an active on-ball defender as was versatile junior forward Sean Marable.
Marable hit three short jumpers for six points, grabbed three rebounds and had three assists.
Pacing Aurora was Kollat, who had 14 points and three assists. Gardenhire defended point guard Joe Dinardo (eight points) well.
Twinsburg will return to Northeast Ohio Conference River Division play this week as the Tigers host Cuyahoga Falls (5-3) Jan. 4 and play at Hudson (5-2) on Jan. 11.
The schedule is in a tough phase as the Tigers also play non-league tests at Nordonia (6-1) on Jan. 8 and at home, Jan. 15 against Walsh Jesuit (6-1), plus a Jan. 18 home meeting against NOC rival Stow (5-3).