BRUNSWICK — Natalie Galaida has rightfully cemented her place as one of the top 3-point shooters in Medina County history.
For the second time this season, however, she saved Brunswick’s girls basketball team with defense.
With a minute remaining in a tie game, the hard-nosed 5-foot-4 senior jumped a handoff attempt, poked the ball away and sprinted to a wide-open layup Wednesday night to lift the Blue Devils to a sigh-of-relief 45-43 non-league victory over Highland.
Brunswick (9-8) needed a win badly after losing five of its previous six games against a difficult schedule, but prospects were shaky after the Hornets (10-5), who had a five-game winning streak snapped, rallied from a double-digit deficit in the second half.
“It’s just a team win we really needed to get,” said the fast-talking Galaida, who pulled off a similar sequence Dec. 15 during a 65-64 win at Wooster. “Everybody came together — all five of us (starters), everyone who came off the bench — and played a really big role in this one.
“I tried to get the first (handoff) a couple seconds earlier. I just missed it. I knew they were going to hand it off there, and I knew who I was guarding really didn’t want the ball, so I’m just like, ‘I’m going to jump this. I’m going to take my chances.’ I ended up with the ball in my hands and made a layup.”
The Blue Devils won despite shooting an uncharacteristic 1-for-13 from 3-point range in the second half. Lake Erie recruit Angela Fink was far and away the best player on the floor for the first 2ﾽ quarters and finished with 20 points, four rebounds and four assists, while Galaida (10 points) and power forward Maddy Ramicone (11) also reached double figures.
Backup center Sammy Grabowski (4 points, 8 rebounds) was the only other Brunswick player to score, but the Blue Devils shored up a season-long problem by winning the rebounding battle 30-28 despite being without physical center Anna Krizsa (ankle) in the second half.
Highland stayed true to its triangle-and-two game plan on Fink and Galaida and mixed in a 1-3-1 zone. The Hornets tied the game at 42 on a 3-pointer by Maddie Miller (10 points) with 3:24 to play, and neither team scored until Galaida’s steal when Highland was trying to use a four-corner offense.
Miller and Ramicone split free throws with 27.0 and 12.9 seconds left to account for the final points. A contested corner 3-point attempt by the Hornets’ Danielle Schlairet rattled out at the final buzzer.
“We’ve been in these situations before where we know not to panic, keep playing and let one of our players make plays,” Brunswick coach Anthony Ocacio said. “Our seniors, they went out there and got key stops when it mattered.”
Fink was a beast in the first half, when Highland gave up backdoor cuts and easy drives at an alarming rate. The point guard had 14 points and four dimes at halftime, including back-to-back assists to Galaida for nothing-but-net 3-pointers that made the score 28-19.
The Hornets got solid games from Tess Myers (11 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists), Kendall McCormick (11, 5, 2 steals), Miller and Alexis Furyes (6 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks) but struggled mightily after Brunswick slapped on a 1-3-1 zone in the second quarter. They trailed 31-21 at halftime before rallying behind their own 1-3-1 in the third quarter.
Highland had five possessions to tie or take the lead earlier in the fourth quarter prior to Miller’s 3-pointer. All the Hornets could manage was split free throws by McCormick.
“We got down by too many in the first half against a good team,” coach James Madison said.
Brunswick 45, Highland 43
HIGHLAND 15 6 10 12 — 43
BRUNSWICK 17 14 7 7 — 45
Highland — Maddie Miller 3-3-10, Lindsey Frederick 0-0-0, Alexis Furyes 2-2-6, Kendall McCormick 3-5-11, Tess Myers 3-3-11, Brooke Stuart 1-0-2, Taryn Kenny 0-0-0, Danielle Schlairet 0-0-0, Lauren Frederick 1-0-3. TOTALS: 13-13-43.
Brunswick — Kelsie Gaiser 0-0-0, Maddy Ramicone 4-1-11, Anna Krizsa 0-0-0, Natalie Galaida 4-0-10, Angela Fink 9-1-20, Sammy Grabowski 2-0-4, Jordyn Wickes 0-0-0, Haley Fink 0-0-0. TOTALS: 19-2-45.
3-point goals — Myers 2, Miller, La. Frederick, Ramicone 2, Galaida 2, A. Fink. Rebounds — Highland 28 (Miller 7), Brunswick 30 (Grabowski 8). Assists — Highland 7 (Myers 4), Brunswick 8 (A. Fink 4). Records — Highland (10-5), Brunswick (9-8). Junior varsity — Highland 32, Brunswick 21.