WADSWORTH — After honoring the 2018 senior players and cheerleaders Friday, the Wadsworth boys basketball team caught fire from beyond the 3-point arc and flew past North Royalton 73-49 to move above .500 for the first time this season.
The score was tied 3-3 two minutes into the Suburban League National Conference game when senior shooting guard Jake Justice splashed home a 3-pointer that kicked off a 15-5 run, giving the Grizzlies (8-7, 6-4) a double-digit lead.
North Royalton (11-6, 6-5) never threatened the rest of the night. All of Wadsworth’s points in the run came on 3-pointers, including four from Justice, who finished with 19 points.
“We had a lot of energy coming out of the gate and we pushed the ball,” he said. “We found the open man and we were feeling it.”
The night was all about the six seniors — guards Justice, Christian Szalay and Mitchell Blackburn, forwards Tony Hewitt and Ryan Storad and center Reid Black. They scored 57 of the team’s points.
“They have meant a tremendous amount to the program,” coach Mike Schmeltzer Jr. said. “I’ve never had in my 10 years as coach a group that’s been together for so long. Those are six three-year guys out there. I’m certainly going to miss them.”
Someone had to come off the bench, and Szalay didn’t hesitate to give his teammates the spotlight. Szalay didn’t start for only the second time in his three-year career, with the other instance Jan. 29, 2016, also on a senior night against North Royalton.
“(Szalay) came to me right away and said, ‘I’ll be the one to sit,’” Schmeltzer said. “It just tells you what kind of floor general he is and what he’ll do for his teammates.”
Coming off the bench didn’t slow down Szalay, as he had 10 points, three rebounds and four assists.
Blackburn hit a 3-pointer at the third-quarter to put the Grizzlies ahead 57-38. He finished with a career-high-tying 13 points, giving him 31 over the last three games after having 16 in the first 12.
Hewitt filled the stat sheet with seven points, five rebounds and a team-high five assists. Storad added four points and five rebounds, while Black contributed four and four.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to have grown up with,” Justice said. “I love each of them and I would do anything for them. I’m blessed. They’re great teammates and great friends.”
The Bears had won seven of their last eight games. North Royalton got a team-high 11 points from sophomore forward Jordan Garland, while freshman point guard Omar Abuhamdeh and senior center Adam Bennett each added 10.
Contact John Urchek at email@example.com.
Wadsworth 73, North Royalton 49
NORTH ROYALTON 13 16 9 11 — 49
WADSWORTH 25 20 12 16 — 73
North Royalton — Brandon Bielak 0-0-0, Jordan Garland 5-1-11, Adam Barrett 5-0-10, Jack Bunsey 3-1-8, Omar Abuhamdeh 4-2-10, Evan Scott 0-0-0, Akram Abuhamdeh 0-0-0, Dominic Costello 0-0-0, Christian Limer 2-1-7, Max Rowlett 0-0-0, Brett Nemetz 0-1-1, Brad Kmetz 1-0-2, Nick Evanko 0-0-0. TOTALS: 20-6-49.
Wadsworth — Tony Hewitt 3-0-7, Ryan Storad 2-0-4, Reid Black 1-2-4, Jake Justice 7-0-19, Mitchell Blackburn 4-3-13, Christian Szalay 4-2-10, Carson Risher 1-0-3, Jack Simmons 3-1-7, Brendan Merhar 0-0-0, T.J. Lockwood 0-0-0, Jacob McDermitt 0-0-0, Beau Casey 3-0-6. TOTALS: 28-8-73.
3-point goals — Limer 2, Bunsey, Justice 5, Blackburn 2, Hewitt, Risher. Rebounds — Wadsworth 30 (Casey 6), North Royalton 23 (Garland 8). Assists — Wadsworth 12 (Hewitt 5), North Royalton 6 (O. Abuhamdeh 3). Records — North Royalton (11-6, 6-5), Wadsworth (8-7, 6-4). Junior varsity — Wadsworth 52, North Royalton 42.