COPLEY TWP. — Listed at 5-foot-10, Dylan Fultz was too athletic, confident and competitive to think about what normally is a perilous situation.
The backup junior guard simply reacted and saved the Medina boys basketball team’s season.
With the second-seeded Bees clinging to a one-point lead in the final minute Thursday, Fultz poked away an entry pass to 6-8 Stow star Mason McMurray and Medina’s Luke Schaefer converted at the other end. Fultz soon thereafter drilled both ends of a one-and-one, helping his team escape 58-56 in a Copley Division I District semifinal.
The Bees (17-7), who offset 19 turnovers by making 11-of-21 3-pointers, advanced to battle No. 1 Hoban (22-2) on Saturday by surviving the third-seeded Bulldogs (18-6), but only after McMurray’s good-looking half-court heave drew back iron at the buzzer.
“It was a good win, and it feels great to be back in the district (finals),” Fultz said. “Stow was a great team.”
Medina took a 54-53 lead on an in-your-face 18-footer by Schaefer (15 points, 4 assists) with 1:59 remaining. Stow point guard Jared Wright (11 points, 3 assists) followed by missing a mid-range pull-up, and the Bees went into a three-guard stall with 1:30 left.
The plan failed, however, as Ben Geschke (13 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists) was trapped and threw the ball away. The Bulldogs moved across midcourt and called timeout with 50 seconds left.
Legendary coach Dave Close’s idea was simple but smart — at least on paper. A defensive switch led to Fultz manning up on first-team All-Suburban League National Conference pick McMurray (11 points, 9 rebounds), and McMurray moved toward the basket and into a post-up position.
Fultz had other plans, using his quickness to poke away the entry pass from Wright. Medina’s Jackson Sartain (12 points, 4-of-9 3-pointers) came up with the loose ball while on his backside and passed to Fultz, who fired to a streaking Schaefer for a layup and 56-53 lead with 25 seconds left.
“I did what I was always coached to do,” Fultz said. “I played half-man and just forced the ball out.
“As soon as I saw Luke, I knew I was going to pass it to him and I knew he was going to finish it.”
Fultz’s free throws with 13.6 seconds to go were set up by a missed 25-footer by Stow guard Coryon Rice. The game ended after Rice made a three, 83 percent foul shooter Sartain failed to convert a free throw and McMurray’s prayer went unanswered.
The Bees advanced to their fourth straight district championship with a collective sigh of relief.
“I’m so proud of the kids,” third-year coach Chris Hassinger said. “We got down, we got up — it was just all over the place — and we turned it over near the end, but instead of panicking, our kids got tough and they focused.”
Medina overcame itself in many ways. The Bees committed turnovers on five of their first seven possessions and struggled to defend when Stow settled into a patient offense.
But, showing resolve, experience and chemistry, Medina also was often masterful in transition to get sharpshooter Sartain involved and made nine of its first 16 3-point attempts. Eight of the nine players scored, including center Tyler Kaminski and freshman guard Kyle Szumski each hitting a 3-pointer, and Geschke was dynamite for 3ﾽ quarters.
“We got a lot of great minutes from a lot of guys,” said Schaefer, who has 1,068 career points.
Still, the game was tied at 42 heading into the fourth quarter and Schaefer was struggling to find operating room against the length of McMurray and heady help defense.
In typical Schaefer fashion, he woke up. The 6-4 senior was a beast in the final 4 minutes, making a pull-up jumper, dishing assists to Geschke and Jimmy Daw (8 points, 6 rebounds) and getting a strip near midcourt for a layup and 52-50 Medina lead with 2:45 to play.
Schaefer then saved his best plays for last via the high-difficulty 18-footer and transition layup following Fultz’s steal, giving him nine points in the quarter. The three-year starter had 13 points in the fourth quarter of a 64-53 sectional final win over Nordonia on Saturday.
Schaefer, Fultz and the rest of the Bees simply knew what needed to be done, as Stow’s only field goals over the final 3 minutes were two desperation NBA threes from Rice.
“Crazy,” Schaefer said. “Those are the type of games you live for.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.
Medina 58, Stow 56
Copley Division I District Semifinal
STOW 14 19 9 14 — 56
MEDINA 11 19 12 16 — 58
Stow — Nick Kollar 2-3 0-0 4, Mason McMurray 3-11 4-6 11, Evan Bainbridge 3-6 0-0 7, Coryon Rice 4-10 0-0 10, Jared Wright 5-10 0-0 11, Justin Harvey 4-5 0-0 8, Logan Lindsay 1-7 2-2 5. TOTALS: 22-52 6-8 56.
Medina — Luke Schaefer 6-9 1-2 15, Sam McKee 0-2 0-0 0, Tyler Kaminski 1-1 0-0 3, Jackson Sartain 4-9 0-1 12, Ben Geschke 4-6 2-2 13, Jimmy Daw 4-7 0-1 8, Colin Szumski 0-1 0-0 0, Dylan Fultz 1-1 2-2 4, Kyle Szumski 1-1 0-0 3. TOTALS: 21-37 5-8 58.
3-point goals — Stow 6-22 (Rice 2-6, Bainbridge 1-2, Wright 1-3, McMurray 1-4, Lindsay 1-6, Kollar 0-1), Medina 11-21 (Sartain 4-9, Geschke 3-4, Schaefer 2-3, K. Szumski 1-1, Kaminski 1-1, Daw 0-2, C. Szumski 0-1). Rebounds — Stow 23 (McMurray 9), Medina 19 (Daw 6). Assists — Stow 11 (Wright 3), Medina 14 (Geschke, Schaefer 4). Turnovers — Stow 14 (Wright 4), Medina 19 (Geschke 5). Fouls — Stow 9, Medina 8. Fouled out — None. Records — Stow (18-6), Medina (17-7).