MACEDONIA — Maria Busson doesn’t need a brace to protect her surgically repaired knee anymore.
She’s a Busson. That’s why.
“It made me feel hurt still, honestly,” she said with grin. “It made me feel like I was still broken, so I said, ‘Screw it,’ and got comfortable without it.”
The sister of ex-Wadsworth and college stars Cara, Luke, Britt and Caleb is quickly making up for lost time — brace or no brace — and the latest example was scoring a career-high 19 points Saturday to help the Grizzlies’ girls basketball team hold off undermanned but well-coached Nordonia 62-47.
The 5-foot-10 power forward was 6-for-7 from the floor, 2-for-2 from 3-point range and 5-for-6 from the foul line in the Suburban League National Conference opener.
More importantly, she scored nine of the Grizzlies’ 18 fourth-quarter points to squash the faint comeback hopes of the Knights (0-3, 0-1), who are without 2017-18 first-team All-SL National picks Soleil Barnes (transfer) and Lizzie Imrie (knee).
“I know that in the year or so (Busson) was off, she’s worked her tail off to add pieces to her game that weren’t there when she was a sophomore,” Wadsworth coach Andrew Booth said of Busson, who averaged 3.4 points as a backup that season. “When you do that, obviously the confidence level is there. She understands how to do the things we want her to do. Plus, her skill level has been raised from hours and hours in the gym. She’s off to a very good start.”
Wadsworth (2-0, 1-0), which saw its big early lead cut to single digits multiple times, had plenty of other notable performances. Wings Taylor Leatherman (9 points, 3 assists) and Kylee Batey (10) combined for 19 points, backup forward Allison Elchlinger added a key seven, Georgia volleyball recruit Kacie Evans ripped down a game-high seven rebounds and point guard E’Anna Won was disruptive defensively to go with six points and six assists.
Nordonia, whose other losses are to Canton McKinley and New Philadelphia, countered with 14 points from sharpshooter Hallie Majoros and 12 from talented sophomore center Madison Cluse. The Knights made the afternoon semi-interesting by making 4-of-7 3-pointers in the second half, but Busson drilled a 3-pointer, grabbed a defensive rebound and made both ends of a one-and-one to make the score 54-38.
“We came out with kind of an edge against them,” Busson said, referring to last season’s overtime victory on Dec. 2, 2017 as motivation. “We definitely had more depth than them, too, which helped. We can sub in our bench and still compete, and they had a lot of young, inexperienced players.”
Wadsworth got a cushion thanks to another classic start featuring fast tempo and beautiful transition passing. Leatherman, Busson and Evans combined for 13 points as the Grizzlies went up 17-9 after one quarter, then Batey stepped up with five second-quarter points as the half ended 28-19.
By then, Nordonia had committed 11 turnovers and was 7-for-20 from the floor. Cluse, a potential Division I prospect with NBA range, was a non-factor with four points, though hot shooting from Majoros (9 points, 4-of-6 field goals) kept the game from getting out of control.
The Knights settled in nicely once coach Julie Buckler stressed getting back in transition, but it was too little, too late.
Busson made sure of that.
“I was mad for having two fouls in the first half,” she said. “I knew I was going to have to step up a little bit at the end of the game. I knew fourth quarter is the breaking point. Anything can happen, so I knew I had to come out strong in order for my team to get the win.”
Wadsworth 62, Nordonia 47
WADSWORTH 17 11 16 18 — 62
NORDONIA 9 10 14 14 — 47
Wadsworth — Taylor Leatherman 3-3-9, Maria Busson 6-5-19, Kacie Evans 2-2-6, Kylee Batey 4-1-10, E’Anna Won 2-2-6, Allison Elchlinger 2-2-7, Maggie Long 2-0-5, Stephanie Andrews 0-0-0, Sami Shaffer 0-0-0, Regan Simpson 0-0-0. TOTALS: 21-15-62.
Nordonia — Ella Gorta 1-2-4, Sion Williams 3-0-7, Madison Cluse 4-2-12, Hallie Majoros 6-0-14, Dominique Evans 0-0-0, Kennedy Syllaba 2-0-4, Celine Puscian 1-0-2, Eden Kereky 2-0-4. TOTALS: 19-4-47.
3-point goals — Busson 2, Batey, Elchlinger, Long, Cluse 2, Majoros 2, Williams. Rebounds — Wadsworth 25 (Evans 7), Nordonia 19 (Cluse 5). Assists — Wadsworth 14 (Won 6), Nordonia 3 (Cluse 2). Records — Wadsworth (2-0, 1-0), Nordonia (0-3, 0-1). Junior varsity — Wadsworth 50, Nordonia 20.