WADSWORTH — Carson Risher missed the first seven games of the season while recovering from multiple fractures in his left leg. His 100 percent return to his physical, aggressive, attacking-the-basket days occurred Tuesday.
The senior point guard scored all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter and led all players with seven rebounds and five assists to power the Wadsworth boys basketball team to a 60-54 non-league victory over Highland.
The Hornets (10-11) had rallied from an early nine-point deficit to seize a 43-41 lead with 5:13 remaining, only to have Risher take over with two layups, a three-point play, a 3-pointer and two more free throws in the final 4:55.
“I decided to go with what I know, which is attacking the basket and being aggressive,” Risher said. “I was just trying to play my game and set up my teammates. Everyone on our team can score and has a different skill set, which is why we can be dangerous.”
Center Beau Casey scored a game-high 16 points for the Grizzlies (9-11), while power forward Jack Simmons collected 15 points, five rebounds and two assists. Small forward Brendan Merhar added 12 points on 4-of-6 threes and shooting guard T.J. Lockwood had three points and three assists as part of their all-senior starting lineup.
“You saw the competitor and the leader that Carson is tonight,” Wadsworth coach Mike Moser said. “He’s starting to get comfortable after coming back from his injury and was trying to impose himself on the game when it got tight. He obviously did a pretty good job of that.”
Casey made three baskets in both the first and second quarters as the Grizzlies went in front 11-2, then took a 31-25 advantage into halftime. Highland went ahead for the initial time at 39-37 on a steal and pull-up jumper by Tommy Williams as the buzzer sounded to end the third.
“They wanted to slow the pace some, so we tried to put pressure on the ball and deny them inside, and I thought our guys did an excellent job of that in the third quarter,” Hornets coach Adam Cestaro said. “In the fourth, we just could not put enough stops together, especially when (Risher) got going. He made a three, got to the rim and went baseline on us a couple of times, which really hurt.”
Alex Jaworski scored 14 points for Highland, while Bryce Profitt and Williams scored nine points apiece. Profitt also had six rebounds and three assists, and point guard Williams provided four boards and three assists off the bench.
Jaworski poured in seven consecutive Hornets points midway through the fourth, giving them their final three leads. A Merhar 3-pointer put the Grizzlies in front for good at 49-48 just past the midpoint of the period.
“There were a lot of peaks and valleys in the second half, but I was proud of how our players didn’t allow that to continue as the game got late,” Moser said. “Highland is a difficult matchup in every way because all of their guys can shoot it and drive the ball. (Cestaro) does a great job with their program, which is why this is a really good win for us.”
Risher wasn’t the only Grizzlies point guard to contribute to the victory. Junior Lance Steward had six points and two assists without a turnover off the bench. The duo also limited the Hornets’ starting backcourt to seven points and a lone assist.
“Lance is a great team player and I really love playing with him,” Risher said. “He will do anything we need to help us win.”
- Cloverleaf boys basketball coach Jack Banks, whose team went 16-6 in the regular season and finished second in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division, was on hand for the intracounty matchup. Banks attended Highland and his daughters went to Wadsworth.
- Carston Marshall scored nine of his team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter as Wadsworth won the junior varsity game 57-47. Rob Huttner had 19 points for the Hornets.
Wadsworth 60, Highland 54
HIGHLAND 13 12 14 15 — 54
WADSWORTH 14 17 6 23 — 60
Highland — Bryce Profitt 4-1-9, Ryan Chema 2-4-8, Alex Jaworski 6-1-14, Cole Tessena 1-0-3, Jake Osborne 1-2-4, Tommy Williams 4-0-9, Preston Grinder 2-0-5, Connor Klein 1-0-2. TOTALS: 21-8-54.
Wadsworth — T.J. Lockwood 1-0-3, Jack Simmons 5-5-15, Beau Casey 8-0-16, Brendan Merhar 4-0-12, Carson Risher 4-3-12, Mitchell Evans 0-0-0, Lance Steward 0-0-0, Jake McDermitt 1-0-2, Trevor Smith 0-0-0, Stanley Bingham 0-0-0. TOTALS: 23-8-60.
3-point goals — Jaworski, Tessena, Williams, Grinder, Merhar 4, Lockwood, Risher. Rebounds — Highland 17 (Profitt 6), Wadsworth 26 (Risher 7). Assists — Highland 9 (Profitt 3), Wadsworth 16 (Risher 5). Records — Highland (10-11), Wadsworth (9-11). Junior varsity — Wadsworth 57, Highland 47.