MEDINA — If Saturday afternoon was a preview of how good Medina’s girls basketball team is going to be, the Akron Division I Sectional/District should be very interesting.
In a must-win game to stay in the hunt for the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division title, the Bees made the most of the opportunity, knocking off league-leading Stow 67-55 in front a packed crowd at Medina.
A host of seniors — notably the frontcourt duo of Taylor Burke and Dev King, along with guard/forward Liz Hiteshue — helped Medina (13-3, 5-1) hold off a pair of Bulldog runs in the second half and move closer to clinching the program’s first championship since 1995-96.
“I think you’re going to see that the rest of the year, to be honest with you,” Bees coach Chris Hassinger said. “Lizzy does so many things behind the scenes that no one sees to get us organized and Taylor and Dev can just score.
“A lot of times we play a two-man game with them, a lot of high-low stuff. Those two are tough to stop.”
The trio, along with some key buckets off the bench, helped pace a third-quarter run that most coaches can only dream of.
Leading for the entire first half, Medina used everything it had to hold off a feverish Stow charge at the end of the second quarter to hang on for a 26-24 lead at intermission.
That’s when the Bees went back to work, using a 16-3 run to open the quarter. King and Burke combined for 11 points and backup guard Kelsey Stolarski knocked down a huge 3-pointer to make it 42-27.
“We had a big run in the first quarter and that felt good, so we wanted to do that again in the third quarter and keep it going,” said King, who finished with 15 points and a team-high 12 rebounds.
“They made some runs and were chipping into the lead, but we just had to keep our mind in it and fight through.”
Medina pushed the advantage to 17 in the fourth before the Bulldogs (10-4, 5-1) started to catch fire.
Hot- shooting and crafty defense from guard Alexandria Shaver (game-high 21 points) helped Stow get as close as nine on three separate occasions before the Bees closed out the game at the charity stripe (20-of-25).
“Our fatigue caught up with us a little bit,” Hassinger said. “But I’ll tell you, the mental part of the game was so much better tonight at finishing somebody. We haven’t seen that all year. We had to keep that lead and, especially against a good team like Stow, that was exciting.”
Along with Stolarski’s 3-pointer, Medina got solid play from fellow seniors Abra Bennett (6 points) and Akilah Walton (4) off the bench.
The Bees opened the game on an 11-2 run behind seven points from Burke, who finished a solid all-around night with 19 points, 11 boards, five assists and four blocks. Medina was tied with Stow just once in the first half.
Hiteshue and Erin Pacholski both chipped in eight points as Medina shot an impressive 22-of-36 from the floor.
Hassinger knows the job is far from done as the Bees head into a rivalry game with Brunswick, a team they defeated for an ugly 30-27 win last month.
“We celebrated for about two minutes in (the locker room),” the second-year coach said. “They know what’s at stake.”
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.