WADSWORTH — No one would bat an eye if someone changed the still-stiff, 5-year-old spring for a lighter version on the north basket inside Wadsworth’s gymnasium.
The Grizzlies’ girls basketball team could have used a little rim forgiveness.
With a chance to steal a Suburban League National Conference war with defending champion Stow on Wednesday, Sophia Fortner and Taylor Leatherman each found back iron on good looks in the final 10 seconds and the Bulldogs escaped 37-36.
Wadsworth (2-1, 1-1), which rallied from a seven-point hole against arguably the best half-court team in Northeast Ohio, played with tournament-quality intensity and will take plenty of teaching moments into a Saturday game at Cuyahoga Falls.
“We’re probably going to watch film on that, and we’re going to look at all the mistakes we made,” said guard Maddie Movsesian, who powered the comeback with a team-high nine points. “Coach (Andrew) Booth even talked about that it was the little things that added up, not the end of the game. Once we figure those things out and do them, I think we’re going to be fine and it won’t come down to a last-second shot.”
With her team up one with 30 seconds to go, the Bulldogs’ Emily Andrassy missed the front end of a one-and-one. Wadsworth then crossed center court and called timeout with 15.5 ticks on the clock.
Execution was perfect, as Fortner was isolated, drove left and fired a step-back jumper from the elbow. The shot looked true but bounced high off back iron, and a mad scramble ensued before a seated Movsesian gained possession in front of the Wadsworth bench, leading to a timeout with 2.5 seconds left.
A lob designed for Georgia volleyball recruit Kacie Evans was snuffed out. Fortner hurriedly inbounded to Leatherman (5 points, 8 rebounds), who got a sliver of separation driving down the middle of the 3-point arc and floated a 17-footer that also looked true.
Alas, back iron struck again and Stow (3-0, 2-0) remained undefeated.
“The first look was real good, and the second look was doable,” Booth said. “You can’t complain about getting two looks at the bucket.”
As Booth alluded to, the Grizzlies had no qualms with how the final 30 seconds played out. They were more concerned with the other 31ﾽ minutes because Stow, which was 9-for-12 from the floor in the second half, almost always took advantage of the few Wadsworth mistakes.
Chief among them was letting rangy center and Tulane volleyball recruit Lizzy Stefanov (14 points) get open for 3-pointers. The 6-foot-1 junior buried four of them, including one from 26 feet and another that was stunningly wide open and gave the Bulldogs the lead for good at 33-30 midway through the fourth.
“Knowing our personnel (is important),” Movsesian said. “Something’s got to stick. That’s one thing we’ve got to fix. Our overall execution on defense, there were a lot of mix-ups that cost us big points.”
The Grizzlies, who also missed a handful of semi-contested inside looks and attempted just two free throws, cut the score to 35-34 with 1:30 left on a putback by Peyton Banks (7 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists), but Stow third-team All-Ohio forward Theresa Parr (14 points, 13 in second half), who has a gaggle of back-to-the-basket moves while still keeping her dribble, answered with a Euro-step drive.
Wadsworth’s Lexi Lance powered in a shot on the right block with 34 seconds left to close the scoring.
While the final two shots went begging, the Grizzlies proved they’re close to returning to elite status in Northeast Ohio. They also know they’re not there quite yet.
“We learned some numerous lessons in that game, but unfortunately we learned some lessons in the ‘L’ column,” Booth said. “That’s hard to take sometimes, but it is what it us. We’ve got to get better.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stow 37, Wadsworth 36
STOW 11 5 12 9 — 37
WADSWORTH 6 9 8 13 — 36
Stow — Lilee Carlson 0-0-0, Theresa Parr 6-2-14, Lizzy Stefanov 5-0-14, Emily Andrassy 1-1-3, Lexi Petit 2-0-4, Kira Philpot 0-0-0, Molly Richards 0-0-0, Bella Adams 1-0-2, Elise Petit 0-0-0. TOTALS: 15-3-37.
Wadsworth — Taylor Leatherman 2-0-5, Peyton Banks 3-1-7, Lexi Lance 1-0-2, Maddie Movsesian 4-0-9, Sophia Fortner 1-0-3, E’Anna Won 1-0-2, Allison Elchlinger 0-0-0, Kacie Evans 1-0-2, Kylee Batey 1-0-3, Molly Palecek 1-0-3. TOTALS: 15-1-36.
3-point goals — Stefanov 4, Leatherman, Movsesian, Batey, Palecek. Rebounds — Stow 12 (Carlson, Philpot, Andrassy 3), Wadsworth 23 (Leatherman 8). Assists — Stow 7 (L. Petit 4), Wadsworth 6 (Banks, Won 2). Records — Stow (3-0, 2-0), Wadsworth (2-1, 1-1). Junior varsity — Wadsworth 35, Stow 27.