WADSWORTH — Following the Suburban League National Conference opener against Nordonia, Wadsworth forward Peyton Banks hobbled from the locker room and into the gymnasium with an ice bag taped to her surgically repaired left knee.
The plan was to limit the reigning Gazette MVP’s minutes in her first game since tearing an ACL in April, but circumstances forced coach Andrew Booth’s hand.
Banks was happy to oblige with five points and two steals in overtime Saturday, leading the Grizzlies to a gutsy 59-49 victory over a young but experienced Knights team that could throw a wrench into the SL National race if it builds on this performance.
“We knew it was all or nothing (in overtime),” Banks said. “We want to be at the top part of the league. That’s where we want to be. We just had to win the (overtime).”
Banks came off the bench for the first time since the 2016 Division I state championship game and didn’t have an impact in the first quarter. Then Toledo recruit Lexi Lance picked up her third foul with 23 seconds left in the period, partially because one official saw backup Kacie Evans ready to check in but failed to blow his whistle before another handed the ball to a Nordonia player for an inbound.
That increased Banks’ minutes, and the senior scored seven points in the middle quarters. The Knights (1-2, 0-1) didn’t go away, and three missed Wadsworth free throws in the final 1:09 of regulation allowed Nordonia to tie the game at 47 on a 3-pointer by Sandra Spellman with eight seconds left.
Grizzlies point guard Sophia Fortner frantically pushed the ball to Banks on the left block. A drop-step move against two defenders featured heavy contact, but a whistle never blew and time expired.
Undeterred, Fortner and Banks scored six quick points to begin OT and the defense held the Knights to 1-for-6 shooting with four turnovers.
“I felt really good,” Banks said. “I was nervous, but other than that, everything went good.”
Outside of Banks’ heroics, role players kept Wadsworth, whose starting lineup scored only 17 points, in position for victory. Chief among them were the physical Evans (career-high 15 points, 7 rebounds), who played big minutes in Lance’s absence, and versatile senior Molly Palecek (career-high 12 points), a guard-turned-power forward who scored in every quarter of regulation.
Fortner finished with four of her 13 points in overtime, while defensive dynamo Maddie Movsesian added five assists, three steals and a handful of deflections that negated Nordonia transition opportunities.
“I honestly wasn’t even paying attention because I was doing what I could for the team,” said Palecek, entered play with 30 career points. “I’ve got to thank my teammates for getting me those shots.”
“(Evans) knew she just had to step up a little bit,” she continued. “She had to be aggressive, and she was. She was careful with her fouls and what she was doing. We knew we had to get her the ball inside because we had the advantage.”
The Knights, who went 11-12 last season but returned their top three scorers and picked up talented freshmen Hallie Majoros and Maddie Cluse, didn’t have too many problems against the Grizzlies’ work-in-progress press, mainly because of the speed of forward Lizzie Imrie.
Guard Soleil Barnes, a future teammate of Fortner and Lance at Toledo, led Nordonia with 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals. Imrie contributed 11 points, six rebounds and three assists, Spellman scored eight of her 10 points in the second half and Majoros drilled two 3-pointers to keep the Knights close in the second quarter.
While the wire-to-wire battle was much more indicative of Nordonia playing very well as opposed to the Grizzlies playing poorly, Wadsworth, which saw junior varsity coach Mike Schmeltzer Sr. get career win No. 400 earlier in the night, has work to do if it is going to knock off defending SL National champion Stow (2-1, 1-0) on Wednesday.
“It was hard. They certainly didn’t make it easy for us,” Palecek said. “But we’ve still got to get better. That’s the bottom line, so we’re ready to go into next week and take on Stow Wednesday.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wadsworth 59, Nordonia 49 (OT)
NORDONIA 10 12 12 13 2 — 49
WADSWORTH 13 12 14 8 12 — 59
Nordonia — Sion Williams 0-0-0, Lizzie Imrie 4-3-11, Maddie Cluse 1-1-3, Soleil Barnes 6-1-16, Dominique Evans 0-1-1, Sandra Spellman 4-0-10, Ariyaun Robinson 0-0-0, Hallie Majoros 3-0-8. TOTALS: 18-6-49.
Wadsworth — TaylorLeatherman 1-2-4, Allison Elchlinger 0-0-0, Lexi Lance 0-0-0, Maddie Movsesian 0-0-0, Sophia Fortner 4-4-13, Peyton Banks 3-6-12, Kacie Evans 7-1-15, E’Anna Won 1-1-3, Kylee Batey 0-0-0, Molly Palecek 4-4-12, Maggie Long 0-0-0. TOTALS: 20-18-59.
3-point goals — Barnes 3, Spellman 2, Majoros 2, Fortner. Rebounds — Nordonia 27 (Barnes 9), Wadsworth 30 (Evans 7). Assists — Nordonia 10 (Imrie, Barnes, Evans 3), Wadsworth 11 (Movsesian 5). Records — Nordonia (1-2, 0-1), Wadsworth (2-0, 1-0). Junior varsity — Wadsworth 38, Nordonia 21.