Wadsworth's Peyton Banks goes up for a shot against Solon's Valencia Myers during the first quarter. (RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE)
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WADSWORTH — With four seconds remaining in the third quarter and the outcome still well within doubt, Solon backup Sammi Rinicella attempted a full-court inbounds heave that caught way too much air.
Wadsworth point guard Sophia Fortner picked it off at the timeline, barreled to the rim for a two-on-one and fired a pinpoint behind-the-back pass to Lexi Lance on the left block.
Lance banked in an easy layup, but time clearly expired just before the ball left her hand to keep the Grizzlies’ deficit at three possessions instead of two. Even the best play of Friday night wasn’t going their way in a forgettable second half.
Ranked ninth in the Division I state poll, Wadsworth had opportunities to defeat No. 6 Solon in what has become a traditional late-season battle between the non-league powerhouses, but couldn’t take advantage in a 49-35 defeat.
“We schedule them every single year in the last game of the regular season, and it helps us tremendously to get ready for the tournament,” Fortner said. “They are a state-level team. Obviously they’re ranked sixth in the state right now, and that’s going to help us so much — their intensity, their ball pressure, the way they pressure us and run their offense, everything is going to help us.”
The Grizzlies (19-3) never led but did plenty right defensively against the Comets (20-2), who feature 6-foot-3 Florida State recruit and McDonald’s All-American Valenica Myers (16 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks).
Solon entered play averaging 68.1 points yet was held to its second-lowest total of the season, and it wasn’t like the Comets shot lights out in the second half, either, at 5-for-20.
The problem was Wadsworth couldn’t buy a bucket in a 5-for-24 second half that included eight turnovers in the critical third quarter, when the Grizzlies tied the game at 28 on a 3-pointer by Taylor Leatherman. Solon then scored 21 of the next 26 points before a Wadsworth layup in the final seconds.
“We started the second half with five straight points and then we had 12 straight possessions where we turned it over or missed a shot,” Fortner said. “We didn’t play like we usually do. We didn’t play like ourselves. I don’t know if it was nerves or a high-caliber team, but definitely the turnovers got us that game.”
Fortner took part in an excellent individual showdown against AAU teammate and Kent State recruit Mariah Modkins (11 points, 5 assists) and finished with eight points. Leatherman also had eight points, Peyton Banks chipped in five and seven rebounds and the Grizzlies almost always made a little run whenever Kacie Evans (game-high 12 rebounds) was bodying up Myers.
Wadsworth appeared a little overmatched in falling behind 18-12 after a quarter, as Solon’s accurate skip passes led to open 3-pointers for talented role players Katherine Dittoe (6 points) and Gabby Mitchell (8, 4 steals). The Grizzlies cleaned up their defensive rotations quickly and effectively limited Solon to 37 points over the final 28 minutes.
“First, they’ve got a big (Myers),” Evans said. “Also, they have a point guard that can lead their team very well (Modkins). I think she’s a great leader, and they’ve got some pretty good 3-point shooters out there.”
The offensive issues over the final three quarters were too much, as Wadsworth’s missed shots to start the fourth fueled a 6-2 Comets mini-run that pushed the score to 44-32. The rest of the game featured a textbook spread offense that was nearly impossible to deal with because of Modkins’ crazy-fast, change-of-direction dribbling.
The good news for Wadsworth is the mistakes are certainly correctable heading into the Medina Division I District, which begins with the sectional semifinals this afternoon.
“We have to learn from it,” Evans said. “We just have to learn that we’re going to play good teams eventually in the tournament. Even though we didn’t perform as well, I feel like we can definitely come out and beat them (in the state semifinals), for sure, but I’m not going to deny that they’re a very good team. They deserve their place in the state (poll).”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Solon 49, Wadsworth 35
SOLON 18 10 10 11 — 49
WADSWORTH 12 11 7 5 — 35
Solon — Kyra Lance 1-0-2, Gabby Mitchell 3-0-8, Valencia Myers 6-4-16, Katherine Dittoe 2-0-6, Mariah Modkins 2-6-11, Hailey Weaver 1-2-4, Sammi Rinicella 1-0-2, Rian Dortch 0-0-0, Minah Ali 0-0-0, Nadia Gibson 0-0-0. TOTALS: 16-12-49.
Wadsworth — Taylor Leatherman 3-0-8, Peyton Banks 2-1-5, Lexi Lance 1-2-4, Maddie Movsesian 0-2-2, Sophia Fortner 4-0-8, Kylee Batey 1-0-2, Kacie Evans 1-0-2, Molly Palecek 1-0-2, E’Anna Won 0-0-0, Allison Elchlinger 1-0-2. TOTALS: 14-5-35.
3-point goals — Mitchell 2, Dittoe 2, Modkins, Leatherman 2. Rebounds — Solon 24 (Myers 10), Wadsworth 35 (Evans 12). Assists — Solon 11 (Modkins 5), Wadsworth 6 (Movsesian 2). Records — Solon (20-2), Wadsworth (19-3). Junior varsity — Solon 44, Wadsworth 43.