BERLIN TWP. — There was a unique sense of intrigue in the air because failure sometimes is necessary to achieve the greater goal.
The Wadsworth girls basketball team appeared OK with a 44-32 loss Monday to the No. 2 team in The Associated Press Division I state poll, Lakota West, at The Classic in the Country Challenge. The Grizzlies competed well, played physically and had a puncher’s chance against an athletically superior opponent.
The game against the Firebirds (13-1) was eerily reminiscent of the 41-30 loss to Mason at Berlin Hiland on Jan. 17, 2016, with Wadsworth (12-2) falling behind, clawing back and not executing quite well enough to pull off a victory.
As everyone remembers, that spring-boarded the Grizzlies to the D-I state championship.
“This is state-caliber,” Toledo recruit Lexi Lance said. “If we want to get down there, this is the type of competition and refereeing we’re going to see. If we can play through it now, I think we’re going to be just as good.”
The centers stood out on a snowy day in Holmes County, as Lance had nine points and four rebounds and backup Kacie Evans, a Georgia volleyball commit, added seven apiece. Small forward Taylor Leatherman and point guard Sophia Fortner contributed five points apiece, with Fortner also having five rebounds, two assists, two steals and eight turnovers.
Wadsworth again surprisingly struggled at the foul line, making 6-for-15 to finish 11-for-32 at the event. The Grizzlies entered the weekend at 69 percent, and their issues against Lakota West were magnified after the Firebirds lost two starters with two fouls by the 2:57 mark of the first period and when Wadsworth got into the bonus 2:16 later.
With Lakota West playing in-your-face man defense throughout before switching to a 2-3 zone in the final minutes, the Grizzlies also committed 22 turnovers and went 0-for-10 from 3-point range, yet were down three points midway through the third quarter because of their workmanlike attitudes.
“When (coach Andrew Booth) was reading the stats, it (came down to) just not doing the little things that we have to improve on,” Lance said. “If we improve on them, I think we’re going to be tough.”
Lakota West took advantage of six offensive rebounds in the first quarter to take a 12-6 lead, then stretched to 19-8 on a 3-pointer by sixth man Sarah Jones. That’s when Wadsworth began to chip away, as it executed well when the pace was slow and shored up the early rebounding problems.
The Grizzlies took only five shots in the second quarter and trailed 25-17 at halftime. They then went on a 9-4 run to begin the second half, as back-to-back buckets from Evans made the score 29-26.
Unfortunately for Wadsworth, that was all she wrote. Turnovers allowed left-handed Notre Dame signee Abby Prohaska (14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 steals) to get going in transition and the well-rounded ESPN four-star recruit scored eight points during a 12-0 run that put the game out of reach.
The Firebirds had a 19-5 advantage in points off turnovers.
“They’re good. They’re pretty darn good,” Evans said. “They’re the second team in the state, and we got a challenge. We almost had them, but, hey, we’ve just got to learn from it and take things away from it.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lakota West 44, Wadsworth 32
LAKOTA WEST 12 13 10 9 — 44
WADSWORTH 6 11 9 6 — 32
Lakota West — Ally Haar 0-2-2, Jasmine Butler 3-0-6, Neveah Dean 3-1-7, Abby Prohaska 6-2-14, Bryana Henderson 1-0-2, Sarah Jones 3-0-7, Jaydis Gales 2-0-4, Madisyn Oxley 0-2-2, Kailyn Dudukovich 0-0-0. TOTALS: 18-7-44.
Wadsworth — Taylor Leatherman 2-1-5, Peyton Banks 0-2-2, Lexi Lance 4-1-9, Maddie Movsesian 1-0-2, Sophia Fortner 2-1-5, Kacie Evans 3-1-7, E’Anna Won 0-0-0, Kylee Batey 0-0-0, Allison Elchlinger 0-0-0, Molly Palecek 1-0-2. TOTALS: 13-6-32.
3-point goal — Jones. Rebounds — Lakota West 25 (Butler 6), Wadsworth 26 (Evans 7). Assists — Lakota West 7 (Prohaska 3), Wadsworth 10 (Banks 3). Records — Lakota West (13-1), Wadsworth (12-2). Junior varsity — Newark 43, Wadsworth 32; Wadsworth 43, North Canton Hoover 27 (Sunday).