MACEDONIA — Maddie Movsesian and Lexi Lance smiled when asked about the final minute of an incredibly intense game at Nordonia.
The Wadsworth girls basketball team had experience on its side, but this one was especially nerve-racking with a share of the Suburban League National Conference essentially at stake.
In the end, the Grizzlies survived three turnovers in the final 90 seconds, a potential go-ahead leaner by Soleil Barnes that was just off the mark and a vibrant crowd of elementary school students Wednesday to emerge 41-38 and maintain a first-place tie with Stow.
Wadsworth (15-2, 9-1) led 33-21 after three quarters, but an 11-0 run by the Knights (11-5, 6-4) made the night hairy in a hurry until Peyton Banks virtually guaranteed an overtime-at-worst scenario by making both ends of a one-and-one with 2.7 seconds to go.
“That was a very intense game, but we knew that coming in,” Movsesian said. “They had everything to fight for and we had everything to lose. We were fighting for the league, and I think they knew that.”
A slow start was forgotten when Wadsworth adjusted to Nordonia’s four-corner offense that initially had success isolating Barnes (15 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks) and talented freshman center Madison Cluse (8, 6). Movsesian was a major factoring in holding Barnes to 1-for-6 shooting and four turnovers in the middle quarters that the Grizzlies won 25-9.
The Knights finally ditched the scheme with Cluse and Barnes both exhausted and Wadsworth ahead 29-19 late in the third quarter, but playing more traditionally allowed Barnes to jack two deep 3-pointers that sparked the 11-0 run, which also featured a layup from Dominique Evans and a flick-of-the-wrist three from Sandra Spellman.
Wadsworth countered with buckets from previously quiet Movsesian and Taylor Leatherman, but another Barnes 3-pointer made the score 37-35 with 1:50 to play.
“We knew what their skills were, but we underestimated that they could hit those shots,” Lance said.
The craziness didn’t slow down.
The Grizzlies’ Kacie Evans scored inside while being fouled 10 seconds later — she missed the free throw — and Barnes split free throws. Wadsworth then committed three consecutive turnovers, but the Knights could only manage a transition layup by Lizzie Imrie.
The final miscue on a mishandled inbounds play gave Nordonia possession at its end with eight seconds left. Barnes got the ball elbow-extended against future University of Toledo teammate Sophia Fortner and drove left to the middle of the key.
Fortner cut off Barnes just inside the foul line while squaring her body with hands straight up. Barnes’ attempt lipped the right side of the rim and fell to the backside block, where Banks got the rebound and was fouled. The Knights had only six fouls at that point, so Banks corralled the ensuing inbounds, was fouled again and made both free throws.
A 60-foot prayer by Nordonia’s Hallie Majoros barely reached the key as the final buzzer sounded.
“Definitely intense,” Lance said with a chuckle. “Chaotic.”
Wadsworth put itself in position by playing great defense in the middle quarters. While 12.7-point scorer Imrie got into quick foul trouble, the Knights hung around by playing one-on-one with Cluse or Barnes well above the 3-point arc and parking stellar shooters Spellman and Majoros in the corners. If a driving lane was not obtained, the ball was sent to point guard Dominque Evans near mid court and the process repeated.
Trailing 12-8 after one quarter, the Grizzlies weren’t playing poorly but couldn’t hit a shot. They kept pounding the ball inside, however, and Lance responded on curls to rim, especially during a 6-0 personal run to begin the third quarter that put Wadsworth ahead 28-19.
In the meantime, Movsesian (4 points, 3 assists, 2 steals) dialed in on Barnes, Fortner took care of Cluse and the posts protected the rim. In the middle periods, the Knights were 4-for-18 shooting, including 0-for-3 from 3-point range, and 1-for-6 at the foul line.
“We talked about if they were going to slow (the game) down what we needed to do,” Movsesian said. “We knew had to do some switching, get up in them and try to make them beat us off the dribble.
“(Barnes) definitely had me a couple times, but you’ve just to contain her and that’s exactly what I tried to do.”
To its complete credit, Nordonia, which will be a major player in the league next season with only Spellman graduating from the starting lineup, still made a serious run at a do-or-die comeback.
Wadsworth now has North Royalton (Saturday), Twinsburg (Jan. 31), Brecksville (Feb. 7) and Hudson (Feb. 14) left to clinch a share of the conference championship.
“Some wins aren’t going to the prettiest,” Lance said, “and that definitely was one of them.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wadsworth 41, Nordonia 38
WADSWORTH 8 14 11 8 — 41
NORDONIA 12 5 4 17 — 38
Wadsworth — Taylor Leatherman 1-0-2, Peyton Banks 0-4-4, Lexi Lance 8-0-16, Maddie Movsesian 2-0-4, Sophia Fortner 1-0-2, Kacie Evans 2-1-5, Kylee Batey 2-0-5, E’Anna Won 1-1-3, Allison Elchlinger 0-0-0, Molly Palecek 0-0-0. TOTALS: 17-6-41.
Nordonia — Sandra Spellman 3-0-8, Lizzie Imrie 1-0-2, Madison Cluse 4-0-8, Soleil Barnes 5-2-15, Dominique Evans 2-1-5, Ariyaun Robinson 0-0-0, Hallie Majoros 0-0-0. TOTALS: 15-3-38.
3-point goals — Batey, Barnes 3, Spellman 2. Rebounds — Wadsworth 25 (Banks, Evans 6), Nordonia 20 (Barnes 8). Assists — Wadsworth 10 (Fortner, Movsesian 3), Nordonia 6 (Barnes 4). Records — Wadsworth (15-2, 9-1), Nordonia (11-5, 6-4). Junior varsity — Wadsworth 43, Nordonia 28.