WADSWORTH — Sometimes the sand just runs out of the hourglass.
That’s what happened to the Wadsworth boys basketball team Friday night, as the Grizzlies dropped a 54-49 Suburban League National Conference game to North Royalton.
The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for Wadsworth (2-3, 1-2), while North Royalton (4-2, 2-2) snapped a two-game losing skid by turning up the defensive pressure in the middle quarters to build an eight-point lead heading into the final period.
The Grizzlies only turned the ball over twice in the opening period, but that number ballooned to 13 over the next two.
“(Turnovers) were the first thing we talked about when we got in the locker room just now,” Wadsworth coach Mike Moser said. “We’ve got a series of things we’ve got to take care of on the board in the locker room, and the first one was taking care of the basketball.”
Point guard and leading scorer Omar Abuhamdeh (game-high 15 points) hit a pair of 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter and senior Jack Bunsey gave the Bears the biggest lead of the game at 52-40 with five minutes left.
Grizzlies senior Brendan Merhar stopped the North Royalton run with a pair of foul shots that cut the deficit to 10, and North Royalton coach Nick Lapsevich directed his team to go into a clock-draining offense. The Bears successfully burned more than a minute off the clock, but Wadsworth forced a turnover, the first of three takeaways over the last three-plus minutes.
“Defensive intensity was key,” Wadsworth center Beau Casey said. “We started playing a lot more on man defense and were face-guarding there at the end, and it brought everyone more energy to try and go for the ball and get more steals.”
Casey converted the turnover into a basket before Wadsworth reserve guard Jacob Jariga (14 points) drove, scored and finished a three-point play that made the score 52-47.
Bears senior Brandon Bielak missed the front of a one-and-one with just over a minute and Wadsworth power forward Jack Simmons made it 52-49 with 58 seconds to go.
Casey blocked Abuhamdeh on the next possession, but Merhar’s 3-pointer from the left side went off the rim.
Akram Abuhamdeh missed the front end of another one-and-one and Simmons grabbed the rebound, leading to a Wadsworth timeout with 18 seconds. This time Casey’s pass was intercepted by Bears senior guard Christian Limer, who was fouled with seven seconds left and made both shots to end the game.
“They reacted great,” Moser said. “We finished the last three minutes off with the energy that we should expect to produce the entire game, but we just waited too long against a good team.”
In the first half, Jariga, a sophomore, was the beneficiary of some great post passes from Casey (4 first-half assists) and Simmons (2 first-half assists).
“I definitely say my teammates were getting me open looks,” Jariga said. “(Casey) was finding me from the post.”
Contact John Urchek at firstname.lastname@example.org.
North Royalton 54, Wadsworth 49
NORTH ROYALTON 13 15 14 12 — 54
WADSWORTH 18 6 10 15 — 49
North Royalton — Brandon Bielak 1-0-3, Christian Limer 3-2-11, Jordan Garland 4-2-10, Jack Bunsey 4-1-11, Omar Abuhamdeh 5-3-15, Nick Evanko 1-2-4, Alec Carlin 0-0-0, Akram Abuhamdeh 0-0-0, Bradley Kmetz 0-0-0, Daylin Riley 0-0-0. TOTALS: 18-10-54.
Wadsworth — T.J. Lockwood 3-0-8, Jack Simmons 3-2-8, Beau Casey 3-0-6, Brendan Merhar 2-2-8, Lance Steward 0-0-0, Stanley Bingham 2-0-5, Jacob Jariga 6-1-14, Mitchell Evans 0-0-0, Jacob McDermitt 0-0-0. TOTALS: 19-5-49.
3-point goals — Lockwood 2, Merhar 2, Bingham, Jariga, Limer 3, O. Abuhamdeh 2, Bunsey 2, Bielak. Rebounds — Wadsworth 19 (Simmons 7), North Royalton 15 (Garland 5). Assists — Wadsworth 15 (Casey 5), North Royalton 10 (O. Abuhamdeh 3). Records — North Royalton (4-2, 2-2), Wadsworth (2-3, 1-2). Junior varsity —Wadsworth 49, North Royalton 46.