MEDINA — The Medina boys basketball team continued its resurgence Tuesday night and is making a strong case for the No. 4 seed at the Lakewood Division I Sectional/District.
The Bees led for the final 26 minutes while posting their fourth straight victory, an impressive 65-46 non-league win over Canton Central Catholic.
“We’re trying to prepare for the tournament,” said sophomore point guard Corey Tripp, who led the way with 19 points, five rebounds and three assists. “We want to pick up our focus and eliminate our mistakes.
“I think we’re ready. We’ve got a couple little things to fix up, but I think we’ll make a run.”
St. Edward, St. Ignatius and Brecksville are widely expected to pick up the top three seeds Sunday, but the Bees (11-7) can make a strong argument to be No. 4, with North Royalton, Rhodes and maybe Brunswick their stiffest competition.
Central Catholic (9-7) lost nine seniors from a team that reached the D-III regional finals a year ago, but the Crusaders play an extremely tough schedule that includes 16 games against D-I or II schools.
Medina, though, had no trouble dispatching the visitors, leading 18-10, 36-21 and 54-33 at the quarter breaks.
“I like where we’re at,” Bees coach Chris Hassinger said. “I love our schedule coming down the stretch. It couldn’t be any better to get us ready for the tournament.”
Medina, which closes the regular season with Greater Cleveland Conference games at Solon and Shaker Heights and home vs. Strongsville and Mentor, is a much different team than it was the first time it played those schools.
The Bees are no longer extending a gambling, man-to-man defense well beyond midcourt, instead playing a more fundamental, containment style that starts slightly above the 3-point line. They also are mixing in a 2-3 zone that morphs into a pseudo man-to-man after a pass or two.
“Ever since Coach Hassinger got on us in practice, we’ve been better,” 6-foot-1 sophomore center Luke Hensley said. “We’re using teamwork and getting back and talking more than we were before.”
It showed against paint-by-the-numbers Central Catholic, which was forced to color outside the lines while shooting 11-for-33 from the field in the first, third and fourth periods.
Better still for the Bees, their defense often led to easy offense, as Kyle Szumski (17 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists), Spencer Aylward (9 points) and Doug Sartain (8) backed Tripp in the scoring column.
“We’ve been more in containment mode and we’re playing more defensive schemes,” Hassinger said. “At the beginning of the year, we were reckless and out of control. We thought we could wear people down.”
That didn’t happen often enough, so the Bees revamped their style, though they still want to run at every opportunity. They were at their best in the middle quarters against Central Catholic, scoring 37 points on 15-for-24 shooting (.625).
Hensley, who rarely shoots more than a couple times a game, got both his buckets in that span and added a team-high six boards and three assists.
“The thing I like about Luke is he’s that grit guy,” Hassinger said. “He doesn’t have to score to make an impact. He’s just so tough and he rarely gets tired.”
The Crusaders got 11 points, five boards and three assists from power forward Dylan Johnson and 11 points, five rebounds and two assists from reserve Alec Stalnaker but never got into a consistent offensive flow against Medina, which has been getting better with every game in recent weeks but still has room to grow.
“We still shoot too many silly shots,” Hassinger said. “We still don’t play with time and score in mind. We still have to prove we can win a close game. Those are the things that concern me going into the tournament.
“But our starters and our bench now know the benefit of defense. We’ve gone back to having depth. When you can sub a lot and still have five guys playing defense, it makes a big difference.”
Matt Spatny bulled his way to 15 points while playing about half the game as Medina won the junior varsity contest 44-31.
Medina 65, Canton Central Catholic 46
CENTRAL CATHOLIC 10 11 12 13 — 46
MEDINA 18 18 18 11 — 65
Central Catholic — Joe Roth 1-0-2, Dylan Johnson 3-4-11, Angelo Milini 2-0-6, Bryce Abbott 2-0-5, Corlin Armour 1-0-2, Tyler Freudman 0-0-0, Tommy Menches 3-0-8, Justin McAfee 0-0-0, Alec Stalnaker 4-3-11, Austin Nupp 0-0-0, Sutton Bailey 0-0-0, Max Congeni 0-1-1. TOTALS: 16-8-46.
Medina — Kyle Szumski 7-3-17, Drew Hassinger 1-0-3, Drew Hensley 2-0-4, Brandon Geschke 1-3-5, Corey Tripp 7-2-19, Tay Gauthier 0-0-0, Doug Sartain 3-0-8, Spencer Aylward 4-1-9, Jack Hagan 0-0-0, Daniel Terrion 0-0-0, Matt Spatny 0-0-0, Brandon Curie 0-0-0. TOTALS: 25-9-65.
3-point goals — Milini 2, Menches 2, Johnson, Abbott, Tripp 3, Sartain 2, Hassinger. Rebounds — Central Catholic 23 (Johnson, Stalnaker 5), Medina 21 (Hensley 6). Assists — Central Catholic 12 (Johnson, Armour 3), Medina 13 (Tripp, Hensley 3). Records — Central Catholic (9-7), Medina (11-7). Junior varsity — Medina 44, Central Catholic 31.