WADSWORTH — In a matter of moments, senior center Kacie Evans and the Wadsworth girls basketball team went from seeming winners to apparently headed to overtime to sudden losers.
Falling 38-36 to Aurora on Thursday in a high-level, non-league battle of 9-1 teams stung bitterly, especially given the way it happened, but the Grizzlies vowed to learn from it.
“We did not play well,” said the 6-foot-1 Evans, who led everyone with 16 points and 11 rebounds but was right in the middle of the game-deciding play. “One bucket in the fourth quarter out of (eight shots)? We have to learn to respond. We just have to keep looking forward.
“After our offense wasn’t going well, our defense started sliding downhill. We have to know how to play basketball. We didn’t play basketball tonight.”
Despite its up-and-down play, Wadsworth led 36-33 and had a chance to make it a six-point game, but power forward Maria Busson (5 rebounds) missed a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:52 to play.
Aurora senior center Shayla Sellers (11 points) then banked in a three from the top of the key — “I thought it was a brick,” she said — to tie the game with 1:25 to go.
Following a turnover by Grizzlies point guard E’Anna Won (6 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists), the Greenmen milked the clock for a final shot, with 6-1 sophomore point guard and big-time college prospect Shyanne Sellers (13 points on 5-for-15 shooting, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 5 turnovers) throwing cross-court to a wide-open Ava Ryncarz in the left corner.
Ryncarz missed and Evans rebounded with two seconds to play, but Shayla Sellers stripped her from behind, immediately went up for a shot and was fouled as the final buzzer went off. A half-second was put back on the clock and Sellers made both free throws for the winning margin.
“I just saw the ball, quite honestly,” said Shayla Sellers, an Indiana University Fort Wayne recruit. “I thought, ‘For the heck of it, let me get a slap at it.’ I slapped at it and happened to get it and then she slapped me.”
It was a bitter end to an otherwise great game for Evans, who went 8-for-12 from the field while dominating in the low post, including a number of left-handed finishes.
“I had the rebound and somehow it got unscrambled,” the Georgia volleyball recruit said. “She was able to get it and release it. It was one play. I’ll move on.”
It was one of several plays at critical moments that didn’t go right for Wadsworth, which made six straight shots and went 8-for-10 from the field overall to turn a one-point halftime deficit into a five-point lead heading into the fourth.
Still up 34-30 and having forced Aurora out of its trademark 3-2 zone and into man, the Grizzlies had a chance to make it a seven-point game, but Kylee Batey missed a three with 6:14 to play.
Shyanne Sellers, who entered the game averaging 24.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists, went out with a leg cramp at the 5:37 mark — she returned with 2:58 to go — but Wadsworth blew a defensive rotation while she was sitting, allowing Ryncarz to hit a 3-pointer that cut the Grizzlies’ lead to 34-33 with 4:07 remaining.
Evans scored to put Wadsworth up three, but Shayla Sellers’ banked three, which came on another play the Grizzlies had prepared for but didn’t react properly, tied the game to set up the crazy finish.
“Whenever they needed a big bucket, we somehow were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Wadsworth coach Andrew Booth said. “And they somehow knocked those big buckets down.”
The loss spoiled a terrific defensive effort by Busson and Won, who took turns defending Shyanne Sellers in Wadsworth’s help-heavy man defense.
The problem was, the Grizzlies sometimes got too locked in one player.
“We were too focused on their main player,” Evans said. “Don’t get me wrong. Mad respect for her. She’s a great player, but we lost focus on other players.”
Offensively, Wadsworth went 0-for-3 at the line, all of its attempts failing to complete a three-point play.
“The takeaway from this game is not only do we have to be ready to play physically, but mentally,” Booth said. “I don’t think we were real dialed in in that facet.”
Allie McCall had 11 points to lead the Wadsworth junior varsity to a 36-15 victory.
Aurora 38, Wadsworth 36
AURORA 10 9 10 9 — 38
WADSWORTH 9 9 16 2 — 36
Aurora — Dylynn Lasky 0-0-0, Julia Mazanec 1-0-2, Shayla Sellers 4-2-11, Haley Ross 2-1-6, Shyanne Sellers 5-2-13, Mika Dalton 1-0-3, Ava Ryncarz 1-0-3, Madison Burick 0-0-0. TOTALS: 14-5-38.
Wadsworth — Taylor Leatherman 0-0-0, Maria Busson 0-0-0, Kacie Evans 8-0-16, Kylee Batey 1-0-3, E’Anna Won 3-0-6, Maggie Long 2-0-5, Stephanie Andrews 2-0-4, Allison Elchlinger 1-0-2. TOTALS: 17-0-36.
3-point goals — Shy. Sellers, Ross, Dalton, Ryncarz, Sha. Sellers, Long, Batey. Rebounds — Aurora 16 (Shy. Sellers 7), Wadsworth 27 (Evans 11). Assists — Aurora 8 (Shy. Sellers 4), Wadsworth 9 (Won 3). Records — Aurora (10-1), Wadsworth (9-2). Junior varsity — Wadsworth 36, Aurora 15.