MEDINA — None of the Medina Division I District runner-up medals handed out Thursday will be discarded by the Wadsworth girls basketball players after a 50-48 loss to Berea-Midpark.
The second-seeded Grizzlies will keep those silver medallions as a reminder that round-of-32 exits are not unacceptable for a program with five state berths and two championships.
In their fourth year as a school after a merger, the top-seeded Titans (23-2) seemingly drilled all 11 of their 3-pointers at important times, including two ginormous ones in the fourth quarter by Lexie Scarton, to advance and battle Valley Forge District winner Lakewood (18-7) in the Brecksville Regional semifinals.
Defending state champion Wadsworth, which snapped a streak of six straight regional appearances, ended an adversity-filled season 13-12.
“First of all, I told the seniors (Olivia Chaney and McKenna Banks) thanks for a great four years,” coach Andrew Booth said. “It stinks pretty bad right now, but one day when they have their own kids and their own grandkids, they can look back and say, ‘Hey, I was a state champion, and I’ve got this ring to prove it.’
“The second thing was, ‘Challenge yourself. This is motivation. Take that medal, which happens to be silver, and hang that somewhere prominent where you can see it every day and decide what you want to do about it.’
“We’ve got a great bunch of kids in that locker room. They’re hurting right now, but I told them there’s a pain that hurts and a pain that changes. What do we want to make this into? Do we want it to hurt or do we want it to change?”
Berea-Midpark’s threes came in spurts but at key times. The Grizzlies led most of the night before Titans point guard and one-girl press-breaker Jada Marone (15 points on 5-for-17 shooting, 4 rebounds, 6 assists) drilled a step-back bomb at the third-quarter buzzer to put her squad up 42-40.
Scarton (15 points, 13 in second half) then took over, opening the fourth with a bucket before Wadsworth countered with the next five points to take its final lead at 45-44 on an inside score by Toledo recruit Lexi Lance (14 points, 11 rebounds). Scarton answered again, however, with a 3-pointer to put the Titans in front for good with 3:17 to play.
The junior, who helped Marone handle the Grizzlies’ full-court pressure, then saved her best shot for last with an open but slightly ill-advised 3-pointer that made the score 50-45 with 1:33 remaining.
“They’re just very skilled offensively,” Booth said. “They take a huge volume of shots, and at inopportune times for us, they found the bottom of the net.”
Wadsworth still had plenty of chances, as Marone missed a wild driving layup and got her own rebound but committed a 5-second violation. Freshman Halle Davis and sub.-500 free throw shooter Miranda Otero (game-high 14 rebounds) also each missed the front end a one-and-one.
Grizzlies forward Peyton Banks (11 points, 7 rebounds) made the score 50-47 on two free throws with 43.7 seconds left and split a pair at 27 seconds. Wadsworth regained possession on Otero’s bricked foul shot, and Booth called timeout at the 15-second mark.
The ensuing inbounds play for Lance flashing to the right block was sniffed out by Otero, so the Grizzlies inbounded deep and Booth called timeout again. Things broke down again when Wadsworth resumed play, and point guard Maddie Movsesian (6 assists) was smacked on the elbow while forcing a hotly contested jumper atop the key with 2.0 seconds left.
Movsesian, who had made 14 free throws all season, drew back iron on the first attempt with the small-but-effective Berea-Midpark student section screaming. Movsesian then hit nothing but glass trying to intentionally miss the second for a violation.
Scarton received the inbounds pass in the corner and time ran out.
“It feels really good to beat Wadsworth,” Scarton said. “They were state champs, and they had beaten us three times (once in each of the past three seasons). It feels good to finally get past them.”
Wadsworth failed to make enough plays in the final minutes, but the Grizzlies also failed to take advantage of earlier situations.
Everything was going fine early, as Wadsworth led 20-17 after a frantic first quarter. The rim-attacking Grizzlies were in the bonus before it was over, drawing five fouls between starting center Otero and backup Kayla Gudel.
Those advantageous whistles dried up in a hurry, however, and play became extremely sloppy. The teams combined to shoot 4-for-28 in a brutal second period — Berea-Midpark was only down 23-20 at one point despite missing its first 10 attempts — and the Grizzlies lost physical backup center Kacie Evans (3 points, 5 rebounds) to concussion-like symptoms 2:25 before halftime.
“Obviously (calls) weren’t going our way every time, but we played through them pretty well for the most part,” Lance said.
Ironically given their reputation as a run-and-gun team, the Titans controlled the second half using patient, NBA-style offense. Either utilizing pick-and-roll or simple isolation — hardly any set was called — Marone and Scarton made everything happen by waiting for a mismatch or bad switch.
The strategy worked, as over the final 16 minutes Scarton made 5-of-7 shots and Marone added seven points and four assists despite playing 6:14 of the fourth with four fouls. Berea-Midpark also played strong defense, led by Otero on Lance and forward Amaya Johnson sticking to Medina County leading scorer Banks, who missed four of her final five shots.
Wadsworth was in the game heading into the fourth mainly because sophomore Maria Busson (8 points) scored six third-quarter points to somewhat offset seven turnovers by the rest of the team.
Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, Scarton and Marone shined when the spotlight was at its brightest.
“We didn’t match their intensity coming into the second half,” Lance said. “Lexie Scarton kept hitting threes and they hit other big shots.
“(Marone) is a great guard, extremely athletic, Lexie Scarton is a shooter and they have that 6-foot-3 girl (Otero) who is a handful down in the post,” she added. “They’re a great team. They deserved it.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Berea-Midpark 50, Wadsworth 48
Medina Division I District Final
WADSWORTH 20 7 13 8 — 48
BEREA-MIDPARK 17 5 20 8 — 50
Wadsworth — Peyton Banks 2-8 6-7 11, Olivia Chaney 1-6 1-2 3, Lexi Lance 5-12 4-5 14, Taylor Leatherman 2-5 1-3 5, Maddie Movsesian 1-4 0-2 2, Kacie Evans 1-1 1-2 3, McKenna Banks 1-3 0-0 2, E’Anna Won 0-1 0-0 0, Maria Busson 4-6 0-0 8. TOTALS: 17-46 13-21 48.
Berea-Midpark — Jasmine Kinsey 1-6 0-0 3, Amaya Johnson 2-9 0-0 6, Miranda Otero 1-3 0-1 2, Lexie Scarton 6-15 0-0 15, Jada Marone 5-17 2-5 15, Kayla Gudel 0-2 1-2 1, Halle Davis 3-8 0-1 8, Kelsi Miske 0-1 0-0 0, Sydney Lantow 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 18-61 3-9 50.
3-point goals — Wadsworth 1-6 (P. Banks 1-2, Won 0-1, Leatherman 0-3), Berea-Midpark 11-33 (Scarton 3-8, Marone 3-10, Davis 2-5, Johnson 2-6, Kinsey 1-3, Miske 0-1). Rebounds — Wadsworth 43 (Lance 11), Berea-Midpark 29 (Otero 14). Assists — Wadsworth 11 (Movsesian 6), Berea-Midpark 11 (Marone 6). Turnovers — Wadsworth 18 (Movsesian 4), Berea-Midpark 10 (Marone 5). Fouls — Wadsworth 14, Berea-Midpark 19. Fouled out — P. Banks, Marone. Records — Wadsworth (13-12), Berea-Midpark (23-2).