STRONGSVILLE — Last season, the Medina boys basketball team ditched a run-and-gun offense in favor of a traditional pace heading into the tournament.
This winter has been the opposite, but the momentum sure looks familiar.
Early attack-at-all-costs offense was what the Bees used Tuesday to break a seventh-place tie with Strongsville in the Greater Cleveland Conference. A fast start was paramount in building a comfortable lead that dwindled quickly during a mostly cosmetic finish, as Medina won 73-69 with four players in double figures and another with nine points.
The Bees (6-14, 2-10) are feeling good after nearly upsetting Northeast Ohio powers Garfield Heights and Solon last week and putting that momentum to good use against the Mustangs (3-16, 11-1).
“We were never down in the dumps — ever,” senior center Tyler Kaminski said. “We’ve always come to practice like we’re winners, and now since we’re close to winning (more consistently), people can’t overlook us. We’re right there.”
At its best when the ball was moving after two dribbles or fewer, Medina scored 27 points in the first quarter, made 13 of its first 20 shots (7-of-11 3-pointers) and finished 24-for-41 (.585), including 7-for-15 from long distance.
Only dynamite performances from 6-foot-6 Strongsville forward Omari Peek (24 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists) and 6-5 center Shaun Csire (18 points) kept the game from reaching blowout status.
Almost everyone in the nine-player rotation made an impact. Sophomore Kyle Szumski and Kaminski tied for team honors with 13 points, 5-10 power forward Dylan Fultz added 12 and seven rebounds, backup Dillon Friedrick pumped in 11 on 2-of-3 field goals and 6-of-7 free throws, Colin Szumski had nine and freshman point guard Corey Tripp continued his out-of-nowhere development with seven, three rebounds and five assists.
The Mustangs started in a man press, but the Bees immediately passed back to the inbounder and tore it apart. Medina made 10-of-16 field goals (5-of-9 3-pointers) in the first quarter while posting a 7-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and roaring to a 12-point lead that was never threatened until the final 90 seconds.
“It’s a lot more fun for us (pushing tempo). Guys are having a blast,” Friedrick said. “Guys are shooting it well, and (Kaminski) is getting more points and rebounds than he did slowing it down and giving it to him. I think it’s worked out.
“We shot it very well to start off, but our defense, we had good defense and got stops. That helped us go out on offense and score easy buckets. I feel like that’s how we scored a lot of easy points and got the big lead.”
Holding 27-15, 37-29 and 51-43 leads at the quarter breaks, the Bees pushed the advantage into comfortable territory midway through the fourth on three mid-range jumpers from Fultz.
Then previously quiet Strongsville guard Bernie McGivern (14 points) went nuts with nine fourth-quarter points and Tre Massey, who dropped 30 points in the junior varsity game, hit a forced NBA-range three to make the score 67-61.
A fadeaway three from McGivern brought the deficit to 70-66 with 26.5 seconds left. Kyle Szumski made 2-of-4 free throws sandwiched around a Mustangs turnover, and another Strongsville miscue helped Friedrick seal the deal by splitting free throws.
Peek, who was virtually unguardable all night with a deadly pull-up 12-footer despite physical defense from Friedrick, capped the scoring with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Medina upped its scoring average to 62.7 in victories. That figure is 54.6 in losses.
“Right now we’re preparing for the tournament,” Friedrick said. “Coach (Chris Hassinger) said this was a tournament atmosphere and every game will be two- to three-point games. This is actually the court we’ll be (hopefully) playing at (in the Strongsville Division I District), so it was good to play here and get a win.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.
Medina 73, Strongsville 69
MEDINA 27 10 14 22 — 73
STRONGSVILLE 15 14 14 26 — 69
Medina — Kyle Szumski 4-4-13, Dylan Fultz 6-0-12, Tyler Kaminski 5-3-13, Colin Szumski 2-3-9, Corey Tripp 2-2-7, Drew Hassinger 2-0-6, Dillon Friedrick 2-6-11, Daniel Terrion 0-0-0, Tay Gauthier 1-0-2. TOTALS: 24-18-73.
Strongsville — Ali Awada 3-0-8, Omari Peek 10-3-24, Shaun Csire 7-4-18, Joe Lake 0-0-0, Bernie McGivern 5-1-14, Jalen Garner 1-0-2, Kevin Lawler 0-0-0, Tim Ruch 0-0-0, Tre Massey 1-0-3. TOTALS: 27-8-69.
3-point goals — Hassinger 2, C. Szumski 2, K. Szumski, Friedrick, Tripp, McGivern 3, Awada 2, Peek, Massey. Rebounds — Medina 23 (Fultz 7), Strongsville 22 (Peek 12). Assists — Medina 14 (Tripp 5), Strongsville 14 (Peek 7). Records — Medina (6-14, 2-10), Strongsville (3-16, 1-11). Junior varsity — Medina 88, Strongsville 66.