HUDSON — With less than a minute left in the first half, Jake Justice didn’t hear coach Mike Schmeltzer Jr. yell “one shot” and raised up for an NBA-range 3-pointer. Then the senior nailed a transition leaner at the buzzer, giving the Wadsworth boys basketball team a desperately needed shot in the arm.
Turned out the mature-beyond-his-years Justice was heating up for a record-setting night.
The 6-foot shooting guard saved the Grizzlies twice Friday at Hudson, drilling a school-record nine 3-pointers in leading them to a misleading 67-43 Suburban League National Conference blowout that was very much in doubt early in the fourth quarter.
Justice had held the record with Ben Vujas (Feb. 4, 2000 vs. Norton) and Jeremiah Lawson (Feb. 20, 2007 at Firestone) after making eight at Ellet on Dec. 23, 2016, but a last-minute bomb against the Explorers (2-9, 0-6) put him on the pedestal solo.
“I felt really good,” Justice said. “I’ve put a lot of work in over the past five to six years. My teammates, they look up the floor, and we push the ball and I got good looks. I shot it with confidence and knocked them down.
“The one I hit at the end of the half, that’s when I knew I was feeling it.”
Justice finished with 29 points on 10-of-14 field goals, including 9-of-13 3-pointers. Outside of the last-minute threes that put Wadsworth (5-6, 3-3) ahead 29-22 at halftime, the right-hander drilled four trifectas in a backbreaking 19-2 run that took fewer than four minutes in the fourth quarter.
The rebuilding Explorers previously went on a 14-1 run to cut a 19-point hole to 43-37 with 6:31 left, but Schmeltzer called timeout and Christian Szalay (12 points, 7 assists, 5 steals) kept feeding Justice as the Grizzlies improved to 4-1 when they record at least 15 assists.
“It’s a spitting image of our game against Akron Ellet last year,” Szalay said. “I know he can do it. Every night I go in thinking he’s going to make seven, eight threes. He shoots more than anybody I’ve ever met and puts more time in in school and on the basketball court. He’s a hard-working kid and deserves every bit of this.”
Justice thought he was coming out for good with Wadsworth ahead 64-41 and 1:57 left and informed Schmeltzer that he was at eight 3-pointers. Justice re-entered at the 1:16 mark, and the Grizzlies ran him off double screens multiple times in an effort to create a shot.
Eventually a swing pass was tipped by a gambling defender, and Justice corralled the ball and fired from NBA range. The shot connected and the bench went bonkers over the historic moment.
“This might not be right, but I told Coach I was one away, and he put me back in,” Justice said. “The kid gambled, and my teammates saw me open. I knocked it down.”
Justice’s theatrics highlighted an all-around good night for the Grizzlies, who dominated outside of the 14-1 Hudson run and made 24-of-43 field goals, 11-of-23 3-pointers and 8-of-13 free throws.
Point guard Szalay looked crisp breaking down the defense and made a big impact defensively. Small forward Tony Hewitt was consistent with seven points, seven rebounds and three assists, center Reid Black chipped in nine points and solid defense against 6-6 center Jack Burdett (11 points, 12 rebounds) and power forward Jack Simmons (6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals) threw down his first career dunk.
Hudson entered play last in the SL National with a 48.5 scoring average and got little production outside of Burdett and guards Aaron Martin (13 points, 4-of-7 3-pointers) and William Wallace (9 points, 4 assists).
“We talked about it that we haven’t been having fun,” Szalay said. “It’s everybody’s problem we had to fix, and I felt like we manned up, had fun with it and we got it going.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.
Wadsworth 67, Hudson 43
WADSWORTH 15 14 14 24 — 67
HUDSON 6 16 10 11 — 43
Wadsworth — Tony Hewitt 3-1-7, Jack Simmons 3-0-6, Reid Black 4-1-9, Jake Justice 10-0-29, Christian Szalay 3-5-12, Carson Risher 0-0-0, Ryan Storad 0-0-0, Beau Casey 0-1-1, Mitchell Blackburn 1-0-3, Lance Steward 0-0-0, Brendan Merhar 0-0-0, T.J. Lockwood 0-0-0, Jacob McDermitt 0-0-0. TOTALS: 24-8-67.
Hudson — Aaron Martin 5-0-13, Brandon Lal 0-1-1, Jack Burdett 3-5-11, Damani Garaway 3-0-7, William Wallace 4-0-9, Matthew Suydam 1-0-2, Connor Gynn 0-0-0, Anthony Chokena 0-0-0, Blake Hartline 0-0-0, Joseph Walsh 0-0-0, Adam Potts 0-0-0. TOTALS: 16-6-43.
3-point goals — Justice 9, Blackburn, Szalay, Martin 3, Garaway, Wallace. Rebounds — Wadsworth 23 (Hewitt 7), Hudson 25 (Burdett 12). Assists — Wadsworth 16 (Szalay 7), Hudson 7 (Wallace 4). Records — Wadsworth (5-6, 3-3), Hudson (2-9, 0-6). Junior varsity — Wadsworth 62, Hudson 51.