Knights topple Eagles
TORONTO — Winning an Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference championship is one of many items on Toronto’s to-do list this season.
The state-ranked Red Knights inched closer to that goal Friday night, rolling to a 79-58 victory over United inside a jam-packed George J. Kunzler Memorial Gymnasium.
Sean Tucker’s club, which is ranked fourth in the Division IV state poll, improved to 12-1 overall and 8-0 in Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference play, two games ahead of Wellsville. The Eagles fell to 7-4, 5-3.
Toronto never trailed after an A.J. Clegg triple put it ahead 5-2 early in the first quarter. The Red Knight advantage moved to 12 when Nick Sninchak buried a 3-pointer to make it 19-7. Another Sninchak bomb made it 24-14 Red Knights after one.
A 13-2 scoring run, capped by a Brendan Matyas triple, gave Tucker’s unit a 37-16 lead midway through the second. The Red Knights were up 47-24 at the break. During the opening 16 minutes, Toronto’s defensive pressure forced the Eagles into 11 turnovers.
Nate Karaffa caught fire in the third, netting 12 of his game-high 20 points, to spark a 15-3 Toronto scoring advantage. Tucker cleared his bench after his Red Knights grabbed a 72-39 lead heading into the final frame.
“Our guys came out with a lot of energy tonight,” Tucker said. “We were waiting for this game for a while now — our guys had this game penciled in. We wanted to play United since we didn’t play real well up at their place (the Red Knights earned a 69-59 road win back in early December), but our guys are playing extremely well right now.”
Karaffa, a 1,000-point scorer, was one of four Red Knights to crack the double digit column. Lucas Gulczynski added 16 to go along with a team-high eight rebounds. Sninchak finished with 11, all coming in the opening quarter, and Trillion West contributed 10. A.J. Clegg added eight.
“We get outstanding senior leadership,” Tucker said. “Our seniors (Karaffa, West, Sninchak, Trent Wright and Kobe Herrick, who currently is injured) are the heart and soul of our team. Then you add in two juniors (Clegg and Gulczynski), and they all just gel so well. We have a solid group of kids who just want to play basketball, and they want to play together.
“The great thing about this group is they love sharing the basketball. They want someone else to have the limelight. It is a joy to watch. If you haven’t watched Toronto play basketball, you need to come see us. It is such a joy watching kids play together and not care about who gets the credit.”
West, a cat-quick guard, was quick to agree with his coach.
“We do have great seniors on this team,” he said. “It’s a really good group to play with. We like to share the ball as coach Tucker said. We’re not worried about the state ranking we have. We’re more worried about getting out every night and giving our best effort. We play together like we are looking for our first win of the season.
“The season is going fast and that’s a little disappointing, but I think we will make a deep playoff run, and the good start we’re having should help us get ready to do so.”
United had five players finish with double figures. Landon Baker led the way with 15, while Alex Birtalan added 11. Keaton Baker, Parker Hydrick and Brutus Ogilvie all had 10.
The Red Knights will return to action Tuesday, hosting East Palestine.
In the junior varsity contest, Bryson Anderson netted 16 points as Toronto posted a 59-24 victory. Anthony Myslinksey added 14. Cody Mitchell had seven for United.
TORONTO: 24-23-25- 7–79
UNITED SCORING: Rhodes 0 0-0 0; K. Baker 4 0-0 10; Hydrick 5 0-0 10; Antram 0 0-2 0; Ogilvie 3 4-6 10; Keschok 0 0-0 0; DiBaggio 0 0-0 0; L. Baker 5 3-4 15; Mitchell 0 0-0 0; Miller 0 0-2 0; Pytash 0 2-2 2; Birtalan 4 0-0 11. TOTALS: 21 9-16 58.
TORONTO SCORING: West 5 0-0 10; Karaffa 9 1-2 20; Wright 0 0-0 0; B. Matyas 3 0-1 7; Gulczynski 8 0-2 16; Clegg 3 0-0 8; Berger 0 2-2 2; Sninchak 4 0-0 11; Leasure 0 2-3 2; Hanlin 0 0-0 0; Anderson 1 1-2 3. R, Matyas 0 0-0 0. Totals 33 6-12 79.
3-POINT GOALS: United 7 (Birtlan 3; K. Baker 2; L. Baker 2); Toronto 7 (Sninchak 3; Clegg 2; Karaffa; B. Matyas); REBOUNDS: United 31 (L. Baker 6); Toronto 32 (Gulczynski 8); TURNOVERS: United 20; Toronto 14.