CUYAHOGA FALLS — Beau Casey’s free throws weren’t a thing of beauty, but he was picture-perfect in many other areas Friday night.
The 6-foot-3 center finished with game highs of 16 points and nine rebounds as the Wadsworth boys basketball team defeated Cuyahoga Falls 65-53 in a Suburban League National Conference game played in a stiflingly hot gym.
“That’s the best I’ve ever seen him play,” said power forward Jack Simmons, who added 13 points, four boards, three assists and three steals as the Grizzlies (6-8, 4-4) used their inside dominance to hand the Black Tigers (1-15, 0-10) yet another defeat.
Never shooting from more than four feet away from the basket, Casey made 7-of-10 shots and more than doubled his nearest teammate in rebounds as Wadsworth bounced back from ugly non-league losses to Ellet and Green.
“He’s an energy guy,” Grizzlies coach Mike Moser said. “You’ve got to love kids like that. He gives absolutely everything he has.”
Casey’s scoring total would have been even better, but he made just 2-of-7 free throws. A number of his attempts bounced six feet above the rim after clanging off the back iron, and an over-adjustment resulted in an airball. One of Casey’s two makes banked in.
“Oh, my gosh,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t know (what happened). It was just an off night.”
Casey has been changing his pre-shot routine throughout the season. He is currently moving his right foot up so that it’s parallel to his left while simultaneously taking one dribble before quickly releasing the ball, almost like he’s taking a mid-range jumper off the dribble, without jumping.
“What I try to do is step into it like a rhythm jump shot so I’m not thinking about it,” he said. “Everything else I tried didn’t work. This has actually been working pretty well, though it didn’t show tonight.”
With Casey and Simmons dominating inside and Simmons also functioning as the team’s best passer when Carson Risher (7 points, 6 assists) wasn’t in the game, the Grizzlies also got three 3-pointers and a three-point play from shooting guard Brendan Merhar, whose 16 points came almost exclusively on assists from Risher or Simmons.
“We just ran plays to get me and (Casey) open,” Simmons said. “Then that opened up the outside three.”
Down 6-2 midway through a like-watching-paint-dry first quarter that featured as many turnovers as points (15), Wadsworth closed the period on a 7-0 run, then got a steal-and-score from Casey and a 3-pointer from T.J. Lockwood (8 points) to go up 14-6 early in the second.
The Grizzlies led 25-16 at intermission and basically put the game away by outscoring the Black Tigers 24-17 in the third period to go up 16. Included was a 10-0 run after a brief nap allowed Cuyahoga Falls to get within five.
Wadsworth finished the night 26-for-47 from the field (.553), including 22-for-36 over the final three periods (.611) and 16-for-24 (.667) in the second half.
With the Black Tigers playing a basic 2-3 zone until their deficit forced them to go man-to-man, the Grizzlies’ greatest success came when they forced turnovers — Cuyahoga Falls had 22 and Wadsworth had 20 — and got out in transition, though they also had a lot of success playing off Casey and Simmons.
“Those guys played really well down low,” Moser said. “Defensively, they did a good job, too.”
Wadsworth through a number of looks at Cuyahoga Falls, which got 16 points, six boards and four assists from James Moore and three 3-pointers and 12 points from Kyler Tepus. The Grizzlies played man, trapped out of a 2-3 zone and briefly used a 1-3-1 and full-court press to keep the Black Tigers off balance.
“We definitely focused on transition basketball,” Casey said. “I just happened to be there at the end a few times.
“It was good to have a good night. We definitely needed it. Hopefully, that will get us back on track.”
Cuyahoga Falls should get a much-needed win Tuesday when it plays neighborhood rival and winless Akron North.
Alex Risher (13), Barret Labus (12) and Carston Marshall (12) scored in double figures as the Grizzlies won the junior varsity game 52-32.
Contact Rick Noland at email@example.com. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.
Wadsworth 65, Cuyahoga Falls 53
WADSWORTH 9 16 24 16 — 65
CUYAHOGA FALLS 6 10 17 20 — 53
Wadsworth — T.J. Lockwood 3-0-8, Jack Simmons 6-1-13, Beau Casey 7-2-16, Brendan Merhar 5-3-16, Lance Steward 0-0-0, Carson Risher 3-1-7, Stan Bingham 0-0-0, Mitch Evans 1-0-2, Jake McDermitt 1-0-3, Trevor Smiith 0-0-0. TOTALS: 26-7-65.
Cuyahoga Falls — Dai Dai Brazile 3-0-6, Kyler Tepus 4-1-12, James Moore 6-3-16, Dean Horn 2-2-7, Joey Canterbury 0-0-0, Allex Miller 1-0-2, Tony Sondles 1-0-3, Noah Koehler 2-0-4, Anthony Nichols 1-1-3, Ethan Tompkins 0-0-0. TOTALS: 20-7-53.
3-point goals — Merhar 3, Lockwood 2, McDermitt, Tepus 3, Horn, Moore, Sondles. Rebounds — Wadsworth 23 (Casey 9), Cuyahoga Falls 25 (Moore 6). Assists — Wadsworth 15 (Risher 6), Cuyahoga Falls 12 (Moore 4). Records — Wadsworth (6-8, 4-4), Cuyahoga Falls (1-15, 0-10). Junior varsity — Wadsworth 52, Cuyahoga Falls 32.