MEDINA — Through 19 games this season, the Medina girls basketball team had not been outscored by double digits in any quarter.
That changed dramatically Saturday afternoon against Solon, and it ultimately cost the Bees what was their Greater Cleveland Conference championship for the taking.
Sparked by sharpshooter Sammi Rinicella to begin the second half, the inexperienced but aggressive Comets repeated as kingpin in a 63-54 winner-take-all battle. The difference was a 23-5 third quarter.
Medina (18-2, 12-2) began the week with a one-game lead with two to play and now has nothing to show for it after losing to rival Brunswick (44-43) and the Comets (16-5, 13-1) over a 67-hour span.
“Yeah, it was not a good week for Medina girls basketball, but we’ve had 18 wins a row and I think we get through two losses in a row,” coach Karen Kase said after a lengthy talk in the locker room. “They were two harsh, tough losses, and we had two very terrible quarters this week — the second at Brunswick and the third today — and those are the differences in the game and the conference and all that.”
The collapse began after the Bees exited halftime holding a 27-25 lead. Solon was not shooting well, star sophomore Hailey Weaver had one point and Rinicella was 1-for-3 from the floor.
Momentum flipped in a hurry, as Rinicella scored 11 points on a layup, three free throws after a foul and two 3-pointers during a 17-4 Solon run. That made the score 42-31, and backup Nadia Gibson completed a three-point play off an offensive rebound to push it to 48-32 at the end of the quarter.
Medina made 2-of-7 field goals — both by Duquesne recruit Lindsey Linard — and 1-of-4 free throws while committing nine turnovers. The Bees also were outrebounded 11-5 after winning the category 15-7 in the first half and allowed Weaver to rack up three points, five boards, three assists, a steal and a block.
It marked the second straight game an opposing 3-point specialist got hot. Brunswick’s Maddy Ramicone nailed her first five 3-point attempts on Wednesday.
“The third quarter wasn’t really good,” Medina wing Madison Luthy said. “We didn’t get any rebounds, they got on a roll and we weren’t doing anything. We need to not have those quarters anymore and play through it.”
“(Rinicella) gets a lot of credit for changing the flow of the game,” Kase added. “She was efficient, kind of like Ramicone was efficient at Brunswick.”
Showing admirable fight behind forward Sarah McKee and backup guard Katie Neate, the Bees made the fourth interesting and salvaged a sense of pride by cutting the deficit to 56-49 with 1:13 remaining.
McKee scored 10 of her game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter. Abby McMullen and Luthy starred with catch-and-shoot jumpers in the first half en route to 11 and 10 points, respectively, while Linard added eight and Neate seven.
Rinicella posted a team-high 15 points for Solon, while Weaver finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals. Point guard Minah Ali (12 points, 6 assists) and forward Kailyn McQueen (10 points) picked up the slack for Weaver in the first half.
The Bees now will focus on non-league home games against Copley (tonight, 3-17) and Wooster (Wednesday, 16-3) before the Valley Forge Division I District.
“We’ll be prepared for the tournament, because we’re going to have hard games in the tournament,” Luthy said. “We’ll know what to do when we’re in these situations.”
Solon 63, Medina 54
SOLON 15 10 23 15 — 63
MEDINA 12 15 5 22 — 54
Solon — SammiRinicella 4-5-15, Kailyn McQueen 3-2-10, Hailey Weaver 3-6-12, Riyah Ali 2-3-7, Minah Ali 4-4-12, Maria Leskovec 2-0-4, Nadia Gibson 1-1-3. TOTALS: 19-21-63.
Medina — Madison Luthy 3-2-10, Sarah McKee 4-6-16, Lindsey Linard 4-0-8, Abby McMullen 5-1-11, Alexa Nau 0-2-2, Katie Neate 2-3-7, Elizabeth Stuart 0-0-0, Rowan McDonald 0-0-0, Regan Todia 0-0-0, Hailey Tripp 0-0-0. TOTALS: 18-14-54.
3-point goals — Rinicella 2, McQueen 2, Luthy 2, McKee 2. Rebounds — Solon 26 (Weaver 11), Medina 27 (McKee, Luthy 5). Assists — Solon 12 (M. Ali 6), Medina 9 (Nau 3). Records — Solon (16-5, 13-1), Medina (18-2, 12-2). Junior varsity — Medina 62, Solon 12.