The Newark High School boys basketball survived a late rally and played sound zone defense to beat host Grove City 55-51 on Tuesday in OCC-Ohio Division play.

The Newark High School boys basketball survived a late rally and played sound zone defense to beat host Grove City 55-51 on Tuesday in OCC-Ohio Division play.

The Wildcats improved to 5-1 and 3-1 in the OCC-Ohio, as the Greyhounds suffered their first loss, falling to 5-1 and 3-1.

Senior center Dane Kopp was a force inside, leading Newark with 15 points andsix rebounds. His combination of speed and physical play that proved to be too much as Kopp had an answer for each Grove City rally.

"The past few days, we've been emphasizing leadership on the team. I started hitting a few shots and that feeds off to everybody else," Kopp said.

For almost three quarters, it looked bleak for Grove City until center Jon Smith ignited a 17-5 run to tie the score at 49 with 3:50 remaining. On back-to-back possessions, he used a thunderous tip-dunk and a no-look pass under the basket to senior Ryan Cosgray to bring the crowd to its feet. Smith finished with nine points, nine rebounds and two blocks.

However, Newark used clutch-free throw shooting to ice the victory. Kopp and junior Ryan Dierks, who finished with 12 points,combined to make five out of six free throws in the closing minutes.

"We always try to play as hard as we can and our kids know that losing that first game to Gahanna put us behind a little bit. Our zone defense slowed them down and once we were able to get blocked out, we were able to run some transition," Newark coach Jeff Quackenbush said.

Grove City entered the game averaging 86.4 points a game, but coachGreg Waits said the team looked flat in the first half.

"In the first half we were back on our heels and didn't really come out with that fire we practiced with everyday," Waits said. "We told our kids that you have to play more than eight minutes,"

Senior Cody Funk added nine points, on three 3-pointers, for the Greyhounds.