STRONGSVILLE — Rare early-January thunderstorms swept through Medina on Tuesday morning, and the boys basketball team took its own version of lightning in a bottle to last-place Strongsville.
Surviving painful opening minutes, the Bees adjusted their slightly tweaked man defense on the fly, regrouped and eventually pounded the once-proud Mustangs 80-63 in Greater Cleveland Conference play.
Medina (6-4, 3-2), which had lost three straight and 4-of-5, trailed 9-0 and 20-8 but stayed true to its plan to communicate more and gamble less defensively than it did in a 76-65 loss to defending Division I state runner-up Solon last week.
There were still more than a few hiccups, but coach Chris Hassinger was pleased overall.
“I loved it, because that’s how we’re going to have to play in the tournament to win,” Hassinger said. “We haven’t tried to grind one out this year. We had to control the ball, control tempo and play really good defense. Tonight we started getting back on track to how Medina plays.”
Balance was the theme as the Bees tied the game at 28 on a steal and score by point guard Corey Tripp, took the lead by making their first 16 free throw attempts and finally blew open the game on consecutive 3-pointers by Tayvion Gauthier.
Medina’s transition-heavy offense never really had issues after a 4-for-12 start, as it scored 66 points on 22-for-43 shooting and only eight turnovers over the final three periods.
Gauthier and Doug Sartain led with 16 points apiece. The duo also combined to make 6-of-11 3-pointers and, with a stellar all-around effort from center Luke Hensley (10 points, 10 rebounds) added to the equation, helped the Bees’ bench outscore Strongsville’s 50-16.
All-Gazette junior Kyle Szumski added 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while sophomore Brandon Geschke (6 points, 2 assists) was solid in a rare start at shooting guard.
“We’re feeling pretty good,” Gauthier said. “We got the taste out of our mouth from last game. We just had to get over it and get back to work.
“The intensity and energy (changed). We got to talking a little bit more, communicating better, and it turned out well.”
The Mustangs, who are coming off a surprise berth in the Lorain D-I District final but still have lost 48 of their last 61 games, got 18 points from physical guard Jalen Garner and 10 from Tim Ruch. Strongsville was relatively even with point guard Drew Lipowski (9 points, 5 assists) on the floor, but the sophomore battled foul trouble much of the first half.
Momentum swung shortly after Hassinger blew a gasket over defensive communication with 2:33 to play in the first quarter and Medina trailing 17-8. The Mustangs’ Saaid Ahmad drilled a 3-pointer, but a 6-0 Bees run to close the period, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Sartain, righted the ship.
Medina improved to 32-3 under Hassinger when it scores at least 70 points.
“We basically threw in the towel the last two days in practice and started over,” Hassinger said. “We’re playing different defensively and different offensively, and I think it was just growing pains right there.”
Medina won the junior varsity game 66-38 behind 14 points from Jajuan Jackson.
Medina 80, Strongsville 63
MEDINA 14 27 19 20 — 80
STRONGSVILLE 20 14 13 16 — 63
Medina — Drew Hassinger 0-0-0, Kyle Szumski 5-5-15, Daniel Terrion 0-0-0, Brandon Geschke 0-6-6, Corey Tripp 3-2-9, Spencer Aylward 2-2-6, Luke Hensley 5-0-10, Tayvion Gauthier 5-4-16, Doug Sartain 6-0-16, Sam Peacock 0-0-0, Jack Hagan 0-2-2. TOTALS: 26-21-80.
Strongsville — Tim Ruch 4-0-10, Sami Farraj 1-2-4, Caleb Warren 3-0-6, Jalen Garner 9-0-18, Drew Lipowski 4-0-9, Shane Slokar 2-0-6, Saaid Ahmad 1-0-3, Kevin Cendroski 1-0-3, Jamar Benson 1-2-4, Jackson Noonan 0-0-0, Logan Starek 0-0-0. TOTALS: 26-4-63.
3-point goals — Sartain 4, Gauthier 2, Ruch 2, Slokar, Ahmad, Cendroski, Lipowski. Rebounds — Medina 28 (Hensley 10), Strongsville 27 (Farraj 7). Assists — Medina 15 (Szumski 4), Strongsville 13 (Lipowski 5). Records — Medina (6-4, 3-2), Strongsville (0-10, 0-4). Junior varsity — Medina 66, Strongsville 38.