Aurora --Everything is positive for the energetic and young Aurora High boys basketball team; the Greenmen just need a win.
The Greenmen have made great strides this winter and are 2-6 overall after posting just one victory all of the 2012-13 season.
Aurora has nearly pulled off a few upsets -- the latest being a tough 65-58 non-league loss at Twinsburg (3-4) on Dec. 27.
AHS head coach Jim Wallish saw his troops come out active against the Tigers -- hitting shots, crashing the offensive boards and playing outstanding defense.
Twinsburg committed five turnovers in the first 3 minutes as a 6-0 Aurora start turned into a huge 14-4 lead when senior guard Paul Kollat hit a driving layup with 2:41 left in the first quarter.
Strong defense and play by sophomore Parker Blunt enabled Aurora to lead 17-8 after one period as Twinsburg had seven turnovers.
Blunt, a shifty 5-foot-10 guard, finished with 12 points and three steals, including 7-point first quarter. "Parker knows how to play the game and he is still learning, but his basketball IQ is extremely high," said Wallish. "He did a great job."
The Greenmen had difficulty stopping Tiger forward-guard Sean Marable and forward Christian Strozier, who thrived as Twinsburg's pressure led to hoops.
Tiger senior guard Zach Gronowski scored a layup on a dish from Jarette Gardenhire for a 9-3 Twinsburg run that made it 17-13 with 5:44 left in the first half, which ended with Aurora leading 27-24.
"I told the kids at the half that if Twinsburg is to come back, that it would be because of their penetration and quickness, plus the offensive boards," said Wallish. "We played great early on.
"Twinsburg is a very athletic team and you can't let down on any play -- we just had trouble stopping dribble penetration. Our help rotation was a little slow."
Marable was navigating through traffic in the paint, showing his uncanny ability to shoot well with either hand. He had 13 points off the bench before fouling out.
WHEN STROZIER converted an offensive rebound for a hoop, the Tigers had their first lead of the game at 28-27 at the 6:51 mark of the third period.
Marable had a hoop and Strozier completed a conventional 3-point play to complete a 16-5 Tiger run and give Twinsburg the lead at 35-30 with 4:33 left in the third.
"Our big problem has been allowing big spurts," Wallish explained. "I don't know why it happens, but we will have a four to six, or eight-minute span where we let our guard down. This one hurt on the road."
AHS showed resilience, responding with its own 7-0 spurt as a layup by junior guard Joe Dinardo gave the Greenmen the lead briefly, 37-35, before the third period ended at 41 each.
In the fourth, Twinsburg was sparked by Sharondre Nicholson, who had 7 of his 9 points. When Tiger senior guard Tay Johnson hit a free throw with 1:48 left, Twinsburg led 61-54 thanks to an 11-2 spurt.
A runner by Blunt cut the lead to 61-56 with 1:29 left, but Nicholson scored on a hoop in the paint and a fatigued Blunt missed a pair of free throws with 1:02 left. Kollat missed a good look at a 3-pointer with 41 ticks left as Twinsburg held on.
"I thought Aurora started really well," said veteran Tiger mentor Bob Pacsi. "Strozier had his best all around game and Marable did too, as Aurora could not guard him."
Strozier had career highs of 19 points and 13 rebounds, including 7 on the offensive end. Kollat led the Greenmen with 15 points, including a pair of triples. Dinardo sped to 14 points, 4 boards, 3 steals and 2 assists.
Junior center Pavel Galchenko had 6 points and 6 boards for Aurora ,while senior forwards Joe Roberto and Drew Daff each had 4 points and 4 caroms. Senior forward Anthony Quaranto grabbed 6 rebounds and hit one free throw, while junior guard Michael Durkin added a hoop.
The Greenmen host Painesville Harvey on Jan. 4 and have a home Chahrin Valley Confrence test Jan. 7 against West Geauga. Aurora is 1-1 in the CVC.