STOW — A roller coaster season for the Wadsworth boys basketball team screeched to an abrupt end.
The eighth-seeded Grizzlies had won six of their last seven games and owned a 14-point lead in the third quarter against top-seeded Stow in a Barberton Division I Sectional final, but the Bulldogs ended the game on a 22-2 run to win 43-37 and advance to play fifth-seeded Copley this week.
“Our offense just stopped, and we just froze,” Wadsworth senior Tony Hewitt said. “I really don’t know what to say.”
Led by seniors Reid Black, Christian Szalay and Jake Justice, Wadsworth roared to a 12-2 run to start the third quarter. Black (team-high 15 points) scored four points, while Szalay and Justice each hit a 3-pointer.
Justice’s shot came with 3:31 left and pulled the Grizzlies ahead 35-21, forcing Bulldogs coach Dave Close to call a timeout to rally his team.
And, oh, how Stow rallied.
Bryce Harvey hit a shot to stop Wadsworth’s streak. From there, point guard Coryon Rice (15 points) and forward Mason McMurray (14 points, 8 rebounds) took over, scoring 16 of the Bulldogs’ final 20 points.
Rice hit a pair of foul shots before McMurray capitalized on a 3-pointer and three-point play. Junior forward Brian Cartwright punctuated the quarter with a basket off a turnover that shrunk the Grizzly lead to 35-33.
The longer the Bulldogs’ run lasted, the more frustration built for Wadsworth. The Grizzlies struggled to find any offensive rhythm, forcing long shots and turning the ball over seven times.
“In the fourth (quarter), we just stopped making shots,” coach Mike Schmeltzer Jr. said. “We definitely settled, and unfortunately there’s not a lot of second-chance opportunities against them, so when you settle for a mediocre shot, you really don’t have any chance at getting anything done.”
Two minutes into the fourth quarter, McMurray tied the game a 35 with a shot in the lane before Jack Simmons put Wadsworth back in front. Rice answered immediately with a three-point play to give Stow a 38-37 lead with approximately five minutes left.
The finish spoiled a strong game plan that held Stow to 19 points in the first half. Szalay and Carson Risher pressured Rice, while Hewitt held junior standout post Evan Bainbridge, who entered averaging 15.0 points, scoreless despite giving up eight inches.
“Defensively, I think it was our best effort all season,” Schmeltzer, Jr. said. “We did a great job of keeping them off the boards. (Hewitt) was awesome. We really like that matchup with Tony on (Bainbridge), and he fought him all night long.”
Contact John Urchek at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stow 43, Wadsworth 37
Barberton Division I Sectional Final
WADSWORTH 10 13 12 2 — 37
STOW 8 11 14 10 — 43
Wadsworth — Jake Justice 3-0-8, Tony Hewitt 2-0-5, Reid Black 5-2-15, Carson Risher 1-0-2, Christian Szalay 2-0-5, Mitchell Blackburn 0-0-0, Jack Simmons 1-0-2, Beau Casey 0-0-0. TOTALS: 14-2-37.
Stow — Bryce Harvey 3-0-6, Mason McMurray 4-4-14, Evan Bainbridge 0-0-0, Ethan Fretag 2-0-4, Coryon Rice 4-6-15, Jarod Zavodnik 0-0-0, Brian Cartwright 2-0-4, Jack Wilson 0-0-0. TOTALS: 15-10-43.
3-point goals — Black 3, Justice 2, Hewitt, Szalay, McMurray 2, Rice. Rebounds — Stow 25 (McMurray 8), Wadsworth 20 (Black 6). Assists — Wadsworth 7 (Justice 3), Stow 4 (Bainbridge 2). Records — Stow (20-3), Wadsworth (14-10).