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High School Basketball

Noland: Medina girls succeed on the court, but bonding outside the gym makes them special

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There will be no more trips to Florida and no more high school games at Quicken Loans Arena for the seniors, but perhaps all the extremely close-knit members of the 2018-19 Medina girls basketball team could hold one last slumber party together.

The Bees’ historic season came to an end Tuesday evening with a 49-28 loss to Toledo Notre Dame Academy in a Norwalk Division I Regional semifinal, but the memories of it will only grow stronger as the years pass.

On the court, that will include the program’s first regional appearance in 26 years, 18 straight victories to start the season and a final record of 23-3, which tied the school mark for wins in a season.

Off-the-court activities, though, are responsible for the memories that will never come close to fading.

Whether it was a trip to Orlando, sled-riding excursions, dance routines, singing contests or, last but certainly not least, team sleepovers where every player took a turn getting roasted by her teammates, this Medina squad consisted of a group of players who will remain close for decades.

“It’s heartbreaking to lose at any point in the season and I know we didn’t play our best game, but so many players played with heart and hustle,” senior Abby McMullen said. “That’s what Medina girls basketball is all about.

“Even though it’s never fun to lose, we all know we had a great season. It was one of the best in the history of Medina girls basketball. That is amazing and we can’t forget about that.”

The Bees won’t, for reasons that go far beyond a basketball game or two or 26.

Heck, even if Medina had played one of its best games of the season, it might not have been enough against the regional-battle-tested Eagles (22-5), who took the Bees out of any type of offensive flow with full-court pressure and relentless, in-your-face, man-to-man defense in the half court.

To talk about basketball for just a second, the Bees scored first on a bucket by 6-foot-3 junior and Duquesne commit Lindsey Linard, but Notre Dame scored the next nine points, led 18-6 at the end of the first period and was never remotely threatened after that.

Medina had made just four shots in 23 attempts until Elizabeth Stuart scored at the 3:12 mark of the third period, and the Bees, forced to shoot extremely quick on the rare occasions they had someone open, finished 9-for-38 from the field with 21 turnovers.

“They were in our face,” Linard said. “They knew that’s what they had to do to get us off our game.”

To their credit, the Bees never stopped fighting, but there was never any doubt that would be the case.

A number of Medina players have been playing together since they were in third grade, and not one of them was about to quit on her teammates, especially because so many of those teammates are also great friends.

“This was one of the tightest-knit groups I’ve ever been around,” coach Karen Kase said. “They loved being around each other.”

That extended well beyond the court, as the Bees held a number of sleepovers during the season. These didn’t involve three or four or five girls hanging out. This was the entire team — sans coaches, of course — all the time.

Over the course of those sleepovers, each girl got roasted by her teammates, with senior point guard Alexa Nau and seldom-used 12th-grader Angela Piloseno performing the funniest routines, then laughing the hardest when it was their turn to be on the receiving end.

“I’ve never been on a team like this in my entire life,” Linard said. “We did some awesome things on the basketball court, but some even more memorable things off it. I’m really thankful for that.”

College likely will come next for seniors McMullen, Nau, Piloseno, Madison Luthy, Katie Neate, Olivia Bowser, Erin Wojciak, Hailey Seguin and Mia Buzzelli, but at future high school class reunions, which kids are way too young to even think about, there will be tons and tons of stories to rehash.

This team grew so close, some current underclassmen might even join their senior teammates 10, 20, 30 years from now.

“It sucks to lose, but we should be really proud how far we came and how memorable this run was,” Linard said. “It hurts now, but looking back there will be a lot more good than bad.

“We can look back and be proud of what we did. We know we made history and an impact on our school and community.”

Whenever the Bees get around to reminiscing, there will be that 18-game winning streak to smile about. There will be the record-tying 23 wins. There will be reaching the regional level for the first time since 1993.

More than that, though, there will be trips to Florida, sled-riding, dancing, singing and roasting one another.

“Of course I’ll remember the 18-game winning streak and 23 wins,” McMullen said, “but even more important is the relationships I’ve made with my teammates.”

Just to be doubly sure, though, how about one more team sleepover? How about one more crazy dance or horrible singing routine? How about one more stand-up comedy act by Nau and Piloseno?

Don’t rule it out, because while there were a few tears Tuesday night, these kids had — and will probably continue to have — too much fun together to stay down for long.

Contact Rick Noland at rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.


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