WADSWORTH — The opening tip of the Wadsworth girls basketball team’s season felt like the initial lyrics to the Eminem song “Just Lose It.”
Guess who’s back? Back again. (Sophie’s) back. Tell a friend.
Sophia Fortner waited impatiently for 623 days for the game Saturday against Lakewood. The torn ACL that erased the point guard’s junior season is in the rear-view mirror.
With Fortner controlling tempo as her old Ms. General self while simultaneously shaking off expected rust, the Grizzlies dominated the fourth quarter to pull away from the defending Valley Forge Division I District champion Rangers 58-44 in non-league action.
Fortner finished with eight points (3-for-9 shooting), two rebounds, five assists, two steals and four turnovers, but the sky-high emotions of flying around in her No. 33 jersey again meant more.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve been on the court and it’ll take awhile to (reach) full go, but we’re just excited to get on the floor and do what we do best,” she said after posing for pictures with family and friends. “I’ve never settled for what happens, so I think that there’s always something that I can improve on — turnovers, assists, shot selection. I know Coach (Andrew) Booth wants me to shoot a little bit more, and we’re working on that.”
Playing for the first time since the 2016 state championship game, the 5-foot-5 Fortner handled full-court pressure with crossovers and hesitation moves while keeping the offense organized. She had a floater, four assists and four turnovers in the first 12 minutes, ranging from getting picked from behind to throwing a transition pass a tad long.
Typical of Fortner, however, she was turnover-free the rest of the night as Wadsworth, which was without reigning Gazette MVP Peyton Banks (knee), rallied from an early double-digit hole. The Toledo recruit, who has a noticeably higher shot release, also factored in the game-clinching sequence with an assist on a Maddie Movsesian 3-pointer and a steal seconds later that set up a Lexi Lance layup, making the score 56-41.
“Obviously she’s a great basketball player, but when you don’t play a game for 17 months, it’d take most people a lot of time,” Booth said. “But I’m not sure without her we win that game, to be honest with you. The little things she does and the way she kind of conducts the orchestra, so to speak, it doesn’t matter if she scores a point. That’s how important she is to us.”
Featuring left-hander Saher Hamdan (19 points, 7-for-11 shooting) and 6-foot-3 center Olivia Nagy (10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks), Lakewood opened the game on a 13-2 run and the second half on a 9-0 splurge that cut its deficit to 35-34. Wadsworth outscored the Rangers 56-22 otherwise and held the Rangers to 1-for-10 shooting in the fourth quarter until a 3-pointer with 26 seconds left.
Unselfishness was the theme, as the Grizzlies showed balance not seen since the 2011-12 season, when Kara Long, Jessie Gearhart and Rachel Goddard averaged between 10 and 11 points. Lance led the way with 12 points, followed by 10 from backup center Kacie Evans and eight apiece from guards Fortner and Movsesian and wing Taylor Leatherman.
Wadsworth was 23-for-55 from the floor and 7-for-10 at the foul line, but an efficient 5-for-11 effort from 3-point range was an encouraging sign after last season’s struggles, especially when Kylee Batey and Leatherman connected late in the third quarter to push the lead to 45-38.
All in all, the night was a smashing success because Fortner was back … back again.
“Our intelligence and IQ have matured,” Fortner said. “Last year was tough, but that definitely helped us to build on this year.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wadsworth 58, Lakewood 44
LAKEWOOD 15 10 13 6 — 44
WADSWORTH 15 20 10 13 — 58
Lakewood — Christian Massey 1-1-3, Courtney Ribar 1-0-2, Olivia Nagy 5-0-10, Saher Hamdan 7-1-19, Isabel Cintron 1-0-3, Morgan Harper 2-0-4, Claire Hylton 0-0-0, Ava Clause 1-0-3, Bryce Binion 0-0-0, Mary Lavelle 0-0-0. TOTALS: 18-2-44.
Wadsworth — Taylor Leatherman 3-0-8, Allison Elchlinger 1-1-3, Lexi Lance 6-0-12, Maddie Movsesian 2-2-8, Sophia Fortner 3-2-8, Kylee Batey 1-0-3, Kacie Evans 5-0-10, E’Anna Won 1-2-4, Molly Palecek 1-0-2, Maggie Long 0-0-0. TOTALS: 23-7-58.
3-point goals — Hamdan 4, Cintron, Clause, Leatherman 2, Movsesian 2, Batey. Rebounds — Lakewood 25 (Ribar 8), Wadsworth 27 (Lance 6). Assists — Lakewood 12 (Cintron 4), Wadsworth 14 (Fortner 5). Records — Lakewood (0-1), Wadsworth (1-0). Junior varsity — Wadsworth 43, Lakewood 13.