BRUNSWICK — The Wadsworth boys basketball team almost beat Brunswick in textbook Brunswick fashion.
The key word? Almost.
After the Grizzlies’ Brendan Merhar tied the non-league game with a banked 3-pointer Tuesday, Goessler split three defenders, drew a shooting foul and, to the surprise of no one, nailed two free throws with 4.3 seconds left to give the Blue Devils a well-earned 49-47 victory.
Both coaches were pleased with how the physical, defensive chess match transpired.
“To play in close games early in the season is important,” Brunswick coach Joe Mackey said. “We’ve been down 10 twice now and been able to come back. Now we know how to win a close game.”
The Grizzlies face-guarded Goessler for all 32 minutes, but the All-Ohioan still finished with a team-high 14 points on 5-of-9 field goals and 4-of-4 free throws. Sophomore Tre Massey was given the green light and responded with 12 points, while backup center Josh Stacho flipped momentum in the middle quarters with body-to-body defense on Wadsworth’s Beau Casey.
Working patiently without injured starting point guard Carson Risher, the Grizzlies got 16 points and seven boards from Casey, 10 points from Merhar and six points, seven rebounds and three assists from power forward Jack Simmons, whose high-post passing kept the sometimes-stagnant offense afloat.
Wadsworth led 16-6 late in the first quarter but fell behind 37-30 in the fourth before rallying to tie at 40 with 4:04 to play. Goessler then scored six of Brunswick’s final nine points — Joe Hunter and Max Ferrell (7 points) free throws accounted for the other three — and alertly fouled with 1.3 seconds to go to force an inbounds play and a desperation, glass-balled 3-point attempt by Casey at the buzzer.
“There are obviously some mistakes we made that could have saved a possession or two here or there, but from where we’ve come and getting these kids back from football a week and a half or so ago, I’m incredibly proud of them,” Mike Moser said of his debut as Wadsworth coach. “I can not question any of their effort, and that’s one thing we put up on the board: Perfect effort. Finish the game with perfect effort.”
Utilizing a two-post offense with Casey and Simmons, Wadsworth found a ton of success getting the ball to the strong-bodied Casey for early inside scores. The Grizzlies also got 3-pointers from Merhar and T.J. Lockwood to take the 16-6 lead.
Brunswick, which was outrebounded 22-10 and made only 6-of-19 3-pointers but committed only three turnovers, found its counter in the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Stacho. The senior held Casey without a field goal attempt in the second quarter, allowing the Blue Devils take a 22-20 halftime lead.
Wadsworth’s offense had to work even more methodically after that, though the Grizzlies gave themselves a chance by making 6-of-6 free throws in the fourth.
“Coming off the bench, I always just stay ready,” said Stacho, who did not attempt a shot but helped handle a 2-2-1 press in the fourth. “I have a good player in front of me, Joe Hunter, and I knew that these guys we’re going to down there and be physical, so I knew when I my number was called I was going to chest up and be ready to compete with them every single play.”
Brunswick went up 47-44 on Goessler free throws with approximately 1:30 to play. Excellent defense forced the Grizzlies to burn more than a minute, but Merhar ran off a Casey screen and tied the game at 45 with 15 seconds left.
Goessler immediately rushed the ball up the floor as Wadsworth scrambled to trap, but the Hillsdale (Mich.) recruit found wiggle room and threw up a semi-rushed shot through contact from multiple players to draw a foul with 4.3 seconds remaining.
Moser called a timeout between attempts in an attempt to ice, but Goessler improved to .895 (137-for-153) for his career to save the night.
“I have all the confidence in the world when that guy’s at the line,” Stacho said. “Any time the ball in his hand, I know it’s going to go in the hoop. I had no stress over that. I knew we were going to be up two when he got fouled.”
Brunswick 49, Wadsworth 47
WADSWORTH 16 6 8 17 — 47
BRUNSWICK 9 11 14 15 — 49
Wadsworth — T.J. Lockwood 3-0-7, Jack Simmons 2-2-6, Beau Casey 7-2-16, Brendan Merhar 4-0-10, Lance Steward 0-2-2, Jacob Janiga 1-2-4, Mitchell Evans 1-0-2, Jacob McDermitt 0-0-0, Trevor Smith 0-0-0. TOTALS: 18-8-47.
Brunswick — Tre Massey 3-4-12, Max Ferrell 3-1-7, Joe Hunter 0-2-2, Trevor Mackey 2-2-8, Kyle Goessler 5-4-14, Josh Stacho 0-0-0, J.C. Asturi 2-0-6, Jeff Buttitta 0-0-0. TOTALS: 15-13-49.
3-point goals — Merhar 2, Lockwood, Massey 2, Mackey 2, Asturi 2. Rebounds — Wadsworth 22 (Casey, Simmons 7), Brunswick 10 (Ferrell 3). Assists — Wadsworth 6 (Simmons 3), Brunswick 8 (Goessler 3). Records — Wadsworth (0-1), Brunswick (1-1). Junior varsity — Brunswick 51, Wadsworth 47.