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It was a tough way to lose, but the Twinsburg boys basketball team's last-second loss to North Royalton can be chalked up to a learning experience.
The host Tigers led North Royalton for much of the defensive battle Jan. 27 in Suburban League National Conference action.
Twinsburg lost 46-44 as the Bears scored an uncontested layup as the buzzer sounded regulation time.
Up six with three minutes left, the Tigers seemed to have the game in control.
However, Twinsburg missed a couple of buckets and the Bears were getting fouled and going to the free throw line and cashing in.
With the game tied with 1:08 left, Twinsburg elected to hold the ball and ran the clock down to try and get the game winning basket or free throw.
It didn't happen as the Tigers were whistled for an offensive charge way beyond the 3-point arc.
That gave North Royalton the ball -- about 60 feet from the hoop -- with five seconds left. A lob pass led to an uncontested layup at the buzzer.
The Bears, led by standout 6-4 forward Max Glass, moved to 5-3 in the league and to 9-7 overall. Twinsburg fell to 3-11 overall and to 2-6 in the leauge.
"We missed some buckets and they were hitting shots at the free throw line," said Tiger mentor Phil Schmook. "It was the type of game a young team will lose."
Schmook's club just didn't get a break in the physical game as a brilliant 14-point effort by Twinsburg's junior Darrell Newsom was wasted.
"Until we learn as a team how to close out a game and until the kids believe that they can finish games, we will have these situations," noted the coach.
Senior forward-guard Vince Paolucci battled in the paint and netted 11 points while junior forward Stefon Scott led the Tigers with six rebounds.
Leading scorer Michael Moore was held to just four points for Twinsburg.
In general, Schmook had plenty of praise for two seniors -- 5-11 wing Mike Cusma and Paolucci.
"Cusma has really improved a lot, especially with his scoring," the coach noted. "They have both stepped up. Paolucci has played out of position in the post and has battled against bigger kids all year."
Host Twinsburg lost 97-62 to Copley Jan. 24. The Indians (14-0) are the leaders in the American Conference of the Suburban League.
Cusma led the Tigers in scoring with 16 points while Moore popped in 13.
Newsom put in nine points and junior guard Leroy Fitzgerald also sparked the team with six points.
Senior forward Chris Wilder, Paolucci, and junior guard Chris Fox each had four points.
"These guys have blended quickly as a team and we have been in every game since January, except for Copley," said Schmook.
Junior post Marcus Gibson added two points for Twinsburg as did Scott, and freshman Kenny McElrath. Copley was led by Brian Roberts' 25 points and Anthony Dente, who got 21.