WESTFIELD TWP. — The debut of Cliff Collyer was the secondary storyline Friday for the Wadsworth boys basketball team.
The Grizzlies cared much more about winning their third straight game, and they did so emphatically with an 82-29 Suburban League victory over neighboring Cloverleaf.
The smiles on the bench and even the court couldn’t have been wider for a team that hadn’t been meeting its own high preseason expectations, but now Wadsworth (8-4, 5-3) is only one game behind SL leaders Highland (9-5, 6-2), Green (9-4, 6-2) and Tallmadge (9-5, 6-2).
Even better, the Grizzlies get the Bulldogs and two-time defending champion Nordonia at home next week.
“We have really fun guys on this team,” said shooting guard Patrick Long, who had five points, four steals and three assists. “We have fun even when we’re working hard in practice, and we did have a lot of fun tonight.
“We knew the (Cloverleaf) student section was going to be rowdy with Cliff, and we were really happy with the way he played and the whole team played.”
The 53-point spread against the Colts (1-13, 0-8) was Wadsworth’s largest since annihilating Highland 107-49 on Feb. 21, 2003. Conversely, it was Cloverleaf’s most lopsided loss since falling to Strongsville 90-36 on Feb. 17, 1995. Its 29 points are the third-fewest in the school’s 64-season history.
The Grizzlies made all of that possible with a suffocating 1-2-2 trap that forced 17 first-half turnovers and an unselfish offense that picked apart the Colts’ 2-3 zone.
All-Gazette center Kyle Prunty led the way with 16 points and small forward Austin White added 13, but seven others scored at least five, including Collyer (12 points, 5 rebounds). Power forward Joel Kipfer (5 points, career-high 4 assists) and Prunty then slammed home exclamation points with dunks on consecutive possessions in a near-flawless third quarter.
“Honestly, they’re starting to bond a little more as a team — not necessarily just on the court, but off the court as well,” coach Mike Schmeltzer Jr. said. “We can tell during the game they had fun tonight. You can see glimpses of them picking each other up, and that’s important in being successful. They’re starting to become a team.”
Without starting power forward Connor Ploucha (knee) and small forward Adam Podolak (concussion), Cloverleaf shot 5-for-33 (.152) from the floor, including 2-for-18 (.111) from 3-point range, over the final three quarters to contribute heavily to the margin of defeat.
The Colts went the first 3:53 of the game without a bucket and were in danger of not having a field goal in the second quarter until Braedon Hansen hit a step-back 3-pointer with 28 seconds left before halftime.
Center Dillon Mullins scored a team-high nine points but was marred by foul trouble and Damian Tripp took a pair of first-quarter charges, but their efforts were the only ones worth noting on a night during which Wadsworth owned a ridiculous 40-16 rebounding advantage and was perfect from the floor (8-for-8) and foul line (4-for-4) in a 23-8 third quarter.
“Transition defense turns into offense, and that’s where we’re at our best,” Long said.
The initial appearance of Collyer took longer than expected, as he was the fourth player off the Wadsworth bench. He entered with 1:51 left in the first quarter to Cloverleaf’s student section chanting “Trai-tor, trai-tor” and Wadsworth’s countering with “Clif-ford, Clif-ford.”
Unfazed, Collyer promptly drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the arc. That was only the beginning, as the 5-foot-11 junior matched his previous 43-game career total with four trifectas and would have made it five if his final attempt didn’t spin out.
Collyer readily laughed when asked about his sudden shooting touch.
“It felt good,” he said with a smile. “Towards the end of my sophomore season, I started to shoot good, so I just carried it on.
“I heard (the name-calling), but I was trying to not let it get in my head. At first I felt a little shaky, but as it went on I got real comfortable. I just wanted to play. I wasn’t really worried about what other people thought.”
It was that type of night for Wadsworth, which also received career highs of eight points and seven rebounds from Jimmy Elchlinger, seven points and seven boards from Nick Hewitt and five points and a career-high four assists from Tyson Heideman.
Everything the Grizzlies threw toward the rim found a way to go in.
“The coaches have been preaching all week we need to move the ball better and get great shots instead of good shots,” said Long, whose team had 17 assists. “I think we did that. We really made the extra pass.”
|The biggest Cloverleaf cheer of the night was for a large group of elementary-school cheerleaders called “The Energizers,” who performed at halftime.|
l Cameron Deemer had 13 points and three assists as Wadsworth’s junior varsity won 52-35. Michael Martin had a busy night for the winless Colts with 13 points, nine rebounds and six steals.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.
Wadsworth 82, Cloverleaf 29
WADSWORTH 22 20 23 17 — 82
CLOVERLEAF 10 9 8 2 — 29
Wadsworth — Austin White 5-0-13, Joel Kipfer 2-1-5, Kyle Prunty 7-2-16, Patrick Long 2-0-5, Tyson Heideman 2-1-5, Barry Fernholz 2-3-7, Nick Hewit 1-5-7, Jimmy Elchlinger 3-2-8, Cliff Collyer 4-0-12, Ben Bingham 1-0-3, Joey Johnson 0-0-0, Mike Carris 0-1-1, Dan Weinerman 0-0-0. TOTALS: 29-15-82.
Cloverleaf — Braedon Hansen 1-0-3, Troy Kapeluck 1-2-4, Dillon Mullins 2-4-9, Ryan O’Callaghan 1-0-2, Damian Tripp 2-1-5, Andrew Jarrett 2-2-6, Matt Geig 0-0-0, Garrison Flora 0-0-0, A.J. Timken 0-0-0. TOTALS: 9-9-29.
3-point goals — Collyer 4, White 3, Long, Bingham, Hansen, Mullins. Rebounds — Wadsworth 40 (Hewitt, Elchlinger 7), Cloverleaf 16 (Tripp 4). Assists — Wadsworth 16 (Heideman, Kipfer 4). Records — Wadsworth (8-4, 5-3), Cloverleaf (1-13, 0-8). Junior varsity — Wadsworth 52, Cloverleaf 35.