BERLIN TWP. — Some of the best teams in Ohio and neighboring states come together each January for The Classic in the Country Challenge.
The Wadsworth girls basketball team has been a fixture, and the message coming out of Monday was the Grizzlies have work to do if they want to return to the Division I state semifinals.
Facing the eighth-ranked team in The Associated Press D-I state poll, Newark, Wadsworth was on the wrong side of a 44-28 decision at the Perry Reese Jr. Community Center.
“We definitely know we are playing the top teams for all divisions in the state of Ohio (at The Classic in the Country),” senior center Kacie Evans said. “We knew Newark was going to be athletic and very talented.”
Shooting guard Kylee Batey split foul shots two minutes into the game to put the Grizzlies (12-3) ahead 1-0, but that was their only lead. Newark (14-1) used a combination of patience on offense and intense pressure to go on a 10-0 run over the next two minutes to take a commanding lead.
“They are extremely good at getting out to a good start,” Grizzlies coach Andrew Booth said. “When you play a team as good as them and dig yourself an early hole, it’s hard to get out of it.”
Senior guards Katie Shumate and Morgan Sharps guided the Wildcats. Shumate, a 2018 All-Ohio selection headed to Kent State, scored a game-high 14 points and led her team with nine rebounds. Sharps, a Miami of Ohio recruit, scored 10 points and tied teammate Peyton Lunsford with three assists.
Wadsworth point guard E’Anna Won followed a 3-pointer by Newark sophomore Madyson Stottsberry with a triple of her own to stop the run and make the score 10-4. The Grizzlies, who came in surrendering a Medina County-low 33.9 points per game, then stonewalled the Wildcats for 5ﾽ minutes.
Unfortunately for Wadsworth, the only Grizzly offense over that time came from a putback by Evans.
Wadsworth was held to 11-of-40 shooting and committed 15 turnovers overall.
“They were definitely very aggressive and up in us defensively,” said Grizzlies sophomore guard Maggie Long, who had a team-high eight points. “It’s hard as a point guard to get it to the wings, too. It’s hard to get the offense going when they deny with so much pressure.”
Once Newark started up offensively in the second quarter, the flood gates opened. A 13-2 run, including four points by Sharps, extended the Wildcat lead to 23-8.
Long attempted to pull Wadsworth back into the game late in the half with a pair of 3-pointers to make it 23-14, but Newark extended its lead to 44-23 midway through the fourth quarter.
Even in defeat Evans expressed her appreciation for getting to take part in her final Classic in the Country.
“It’s honestly one of my favorite games I’ve ever played in,” Evans said. “The atmosphere is great, the people are great, the teams are great. I love the community and how they support everybody, not just their team.”
Newark 44, Wadsworth 28
NEWARK 10 13 13 8 — 44
WADSWORTH 4 10 7 7 — 28
Newark — Katie Shumate 6-1-14, Emma Shumate 2-1-6, Gabby Stare 1-0-2, Morgan Sharps 4-0-10, Peyton Lunsford 1-0-2, Madyson Stottsberry 2-0-5, Makinnsey McMillan 0-0-0, Tamia Kendrick 1-0-3, Abby Derwacter 1-0-2, Natazia Thomas 0-0-0, Toyonna Childress 0-0-0. TOTALS: 18-2-44.
Wadsworth — Taylor Leatherman 1-0-2, Maria Busson 0-1-1, Kacie Evans 3-1-7, Kylee Batey 1-1-3, E’Anna Won 2-0-5, Maggile Long 3-0-8, Stephanie Andrews 0-0-0, Regan Simpson 0-0-0, Sami Shaffer 0-0-0, Allison Elchlinger 1-0-2, Ky’Sonna Won 0-0-0. TOTALS: 11-3-28.
3-point goals — Sharps 2, E. Shumate, Stottsberry, K. Shumate, Kendrick, Long 2, E. Won. Rebounds — Newark 28 (K. Shumate 9), Wadsworth 27 (Evans 9). Assists — Newark 11 (Sharps, Lunsford 3), Wadsworth 6 (E. Won 4). Records — Wadsworth (12-3), Newark (14-1).