The Wadsworth girls basketball team is honored Thursday at a pep rally. The Grizzlies will be playing in the state’s Final Four tonight in Columbus.
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WADSWORTH — The Wadsworth girls basketball team is no stranger to the state tournament.
The Grizzlies have advanced to Columbus six times, and they have Division I state championships on their resume in 1997 and 2016.
Wadsworth (24-3) will face Solon (25-2) in the state semifinals at 6 tonight at Schottenstein Center at Value City Arena, and thousands of fans in the city plan on making the trip south.
“The last one out of town, turn out the lights,” Grizzlies coach Andrew Booth said Thursday morning at a pep rally.
The high school hosted the rally for the girls basketball, bowling and wrestling teams. The wrestling team finished third and the bowling team fourth in their respective state tournaments.
After the rally, the girls basketball team piled into a school bus that drove by all the schools in the district on the way to Columbus.
Elementary students made signs for their basketball heroes and held them high along the route.
Booth credits his team’s depth as one of its strengths as well as the community.
“It’s not just depth, but our sixth man,” he said. “That’s you guys (fans).”
Fans are asked to wear red at the state tournament. Booth said when the Grizzlies were in the Final Four two years ago, “it looked like a red sea” came over Columbus.
Wadsworth captured the Division I crown that year.
“The party lasted a week at my house,” Booth said.
English teacher C.C. Berg spoke to the overflow crowd at the pep rally. Those in attendance said he has a way of firing up a crowd with his motivational messages.
“We’re experiencing d￩j￠ vu. We’ve been there before when we brought that banner back home,” he said, pointing to the 2016 championship banner hanging in Dave Sladky Court.
Berg said the Grizzlies are underdogs heading into the state tournament, likely because they lost to Solon during the regular season.
“We’re not the ones who were born with a silver spoon in our mouth like the team we are playing Friday,” he said. “We’re not the ones who dine on prime rib and lobster and drinks bottled water with their pinky in the air like the team we are playing Friday. We’re not the ones who drive into the school parking lot in the finest autos like the team we are playing Friday.
“We’d have it no other way.”
He said early in the season, the Grizzlies didn’t get the respect they deserved in Division I.
“They kicked you out in the cold, which left you shivering,” Berg said. “All the meanwhile when people forgot about you, you got stronger. Embrace that underdog status.
“You’ll have to fight and claw if you want to bring home that championship. You go down and kick those big dogs in the rear.”
Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.