STOW — The Wadsworth and Stow girls basketball teams shared the 2018 Suburban League National Conference championship. A similar scenario was set up Saturday.
Senior point guard Lexi Petit scored a game-high 13 points and junior center Kira Philpot had four points and nine rebounds, leading the red-hot Bulldogs to a 41-33 victory over the visiting Grizzlies.
Stow (18-2, 12-1) extended its winning streak to 14 and won its 11th straight in the SL National to pull into a first-place tie with Wadsworth (16-4, 12-1) with one conference game remaining. The Grizzlies claimed their initial meeting 53-43 on Dec. 5.
“We knew it would be tough and this game was a real grind — obviously, it wasn’t pretty at times — but none of that matters because we won the game,” smiling Bulldogs coach Bob Podges said.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t play to the best of our abilities at Wadsworth, so our goal was to work hard and put ourselves in this position. When we finally got here, winning was very important to us.”
The Grizzlies played smart and hard but were visibly affected emotionally as they took the court for the first time without top center Kacie Evans (no longer on team) and backup point guard Maggie Long (torn anterior cruciate ligament).
Senior shooting guard Kylee Batey and junior small forward Taylor Leatherman scored seven points apiece and junior point guard E’Anna Won had six for Wadsworth. Senior center Allison Elchlinger added five points and five rebounds off the bench.
“We really hustled our butts off despite all of the challenges coming our way this week,” Elchlinger said. “The shots not falling were frustrating, but we worked hard on the boards because that’s what we had to do to match them in the paint. Now, we’re going to go back to practice and get ready for Hudson.”
Wadsworth hosts the Explorers, while Stow entertains Brecksville in their SL finales Wednesday. The Grizzlies then wrap up the regular season Friday at Greater Cleveland Conference champion Solon, giving them little time to catch their footing.
The Bulldogs outscored Wadsworth in all four quarters and went in front for good at 14-13 in the second on a layup by freshman center Kristin Chmielewski, who was a significant factor with eight points and five rebounds.
The Grizzlies limited Stow’s top two scorers — senior shooting guard Emily Andrassy and senior power forward Lizzy Stefanov — to one total basket on 11 shots but could not recover from a nine-minute drought without a field goal that bridged halftime.
“Quality shots are at a premium against Stow, which hangs their hats on defense just like we do,” said Wadsworth coach Andrew Booth, whose team missed 23 of its first 28 attempts.
“But I don’t think we got bad shots, they just didn’t go in. There were a couple of times the ball hung on the rim and several more where it circled the rim before falling off.”
Batey was the only Grizzlies player with more than one hoop until late in the third when sophomore center Stephanie Andrews made back-to-back buckets on her way to a six-point outing. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, kept plugging away and built their largest advantage at 33-21 on a Petit 3-pointer in the fourth.
Despite being undersized and undermanned, Wadsworth claimed the rebounding battle 29-24. Senior power forward Maria Busson snared six, Batey and Elchlinger each had five, Leatherman had four and Andrews, Won and freshman power forward Regan Simpson picked up three apiece.
“Alli, Steph and Regan were going 110 percent all game and really stepped up with their post presence,” said Batey, who made a team-best two steals. “With all of the factors coming in with losing two of our main players, I thought we handled it pretty well.”
The Grizzlies pulled within 37-31 when Lawrence Tech recruit Batey buried a 3-pointer with 1:21 remaining, but Petit kept them at bay by sinking 3-of-4 free throws to complete her 10-point quarter.
Andrassy wound up with five points and a game-high four assists, and sophomore small forward Lilee Carlson scored seven points for Stow, which hasn’t been beaten since Dec. 19 by SL American Conference kingpin Aurora.
Without sharpshooter Long in the lineup, Wadsworth was just 2-of-11 on 3-pointers.
“Look, none of us like to lose, especially to Stow, which is our rival,” Batey said. “But we’re going to get back in the gym, we’re going to work on getting better and we’ll be ready to go against Hudson. If we can share the SL title and make a long tournament run, no one is going to remember anything else about this season.”
Three-time Gazette volleyball MVP Evans left the Grizzlies late in the week to focus on her Junior Olympic team. “She is no longer with the program,” Booth said of the Georgia signee.
Wadsworth was victorious in the junior varsity game 32-28, improving its record to 20-0, 13-0.
Stow 41, Wadsworth 33
WADSWORTH 6 8 5 14 — 33
STOW 8 11 7 15 — 41
Wadsworth — Taylor Leatherman 2-2-7, Maria Busson 0-0-0, Stephanie Andrews 2-2-6, Kylee Batey 3-0-7, E’Anna Won 2-2-6, Allison Elchlinger 2-1-5, Regan Simpson 1-0-2, Sami Shaffer 0-0-0. TOTALS: 12-7-33.
Stow — Lilee Carlson 1-5-7, Lizzy Stefanov 0-0-0, Kira Philpot 2-0-4, Emily Andrassy 1-3-5, Lexi Petit 4-3-13, Kristin Chmielewski 4-0-8, Bella Adams 2-0-4, Petra Tancinova 0-0-0, Claire O’Verko 0-0-0. TOTALS: 14-11-41.
3-point goals — Leatherman, Batey, Petit 2. Rebounds — Wadsworth 29 (Busson 6), Stow 24 (Philpot 9). Assists — Wadsworth 5 (Busson 2), Stow 7 (Andrassy 4). Records — Wadsworth (16-4, 12-1), Stow (18-2, 12-1). Junior varsity — Wadsworth 32, Stow 28.