When it comes to matching up with top-seeded Stow’s boys basketball team, it’s pick a poison.
First, there’s 6-foot-6 point guard David Walker (14.4 ppg). The junior can handle the ball with precision, find the open man and defend nearly any opposing player.
Second, there’s 6-8 Mike Garrison and 6-5 Ryan Yurkschatt in the post. The duo controls the paint and helps open up shots for 6-1 junior shooting guard Kyle Scelza (13.5 ppg).
Finally, there’s the Bulldogs’ system, which bores the average fan. It’s slow and extremely patient, waiting to strike when the defense makes a mistake.
Obviously, fourth-seeded Wadsworth has its hands full tonight in the Copley Division I District semifinals.
“It’s an awesome opportunity for us,” Grizzlies coach Mike Schmeltzer Jr. said of his school’s first district appearance since 2008. “The kids are extremely excited.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge. (Stow) Coach (Dave) Close is one of the best in Ohio, in my opinion, and it’s a good opportunity for us.”
Wadsworth (15-6) had little problem with Twinsburg in its first-round game. Northeast Ohio Conference River Division champion Stow countered by having to rally and get past pesky Barberton in overtime.
The Bulldogs (19-2), who have won nine straight, match up well with the Grizzlies’ 1-2 punch of Prescott Williams (18.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 3.0 apg) and Josh Kipfer (16.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg). Stow will likely have Walker guard the 6-3 Williams, while Garrison and Yurkschatt will square off with Kipfer.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies have the luxury of using the long and athletic Williams to handle Walker, but limiting good looks for Scelza and staying disciplined will likely decide the outcome.
“They’re extremely patient and they don’t make mistakes,” Schmeltzer said. “Very rarely do they make mistakes. They’re not going to turn the ball over much, and we’ve been preaching be ready to play defense for 30 seconds to a minute without losing focus of what’s going on.”
Point guard Tate Moore (6-1), shooting guard Tyler Perry (6-0) and power forward Justin Sovine (6-3) round out the Grizzlies’ starting lineup, which, according to Schmeltzer, will have to be at the top of its game.
The winner advances to face either second-seeded Green (17-4) or third-seeded Firestone (13-9) in the district championship.
“It’s going to take a 100-percent team effort to win this basketball game,” he said. “We’re going to need guys and step up and hit open shots. Hopefully, it goes that way for us.”
Grafton Division I District
Brunswick (15-7) is hoping to rally around injured star Pat Forsythe tonight in the district semifinals vs. Berea (14-8). Senior Ray J. Brown (6-3) will start at center for Forsythe, who is out for the year with a broken ankle, and junior Scott Suren (6-4) and sophomore Taylor Armagost (6-2) could also see time.
The Blue Devils plan on slowing down the pace in an effort to find open shots.
“We might not look like the same team, obviously, and we’ll have to change a lot of things in the short term,” coach Joe Mackey said. “I’m confident about that.”
While the big change revolves around significantly less inside scoring and defense, Brunswick is built to chuck a barrage of 3-pointers, and Mackey plans to do just that.
That means the scoring loads of senior power forward Matt Dunning (9.7 ppg, 39 3-pointers), freshman point guard Ryan Badowski (9.1, 43) and sophomore swingman Kyle Wheeler (6.3, 31) must increase for the Blue Devils to have a chance.
The Braves are fresh off upsetting top-seeded Avon Lake in last week’s sectional championships. Berea likes to play up-tempo and is very balanced.
Six players are averaging at least six points per game. Jared Paster, who has made over 40 3-pointers, leads the way at just over 13 per night.
“We’re losing 22 points and 16 rebounds. We’re not going to be able to make that up,” Mackey said. “We still have seniors who have been great leaders for us. At different times other players have stepped up, so we’re going to need that.”
The winner of tonight’s game advances to Saturday’s district title game vs. either second-seeded Strongsville or Lorain.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copley Division I District semifinals
Wadsworth (15-6) vs. Stow (19-2)
WHERE: Copley High School, 3797 Ridgewood Road, Copley.
AT STAKE: Berth in Saturday’s district championship against either Green (17-4) or Firestone (13-9).
THE SKINNY: The Bulldogs are huge with 6-8 Mike Garrison, 6-5 Ryan Yurkschatt and 6-6 point guard David Walker, and lull opponents to sleep with a methodical half-court offense. Wadsworth counters with 1-2 scoring punch Prescott Williams and Josh Kipfer, which averages nearly 35 points per game. If Williams and Kipfer can reach their season averages, Wadsworth will have a good shot.
Grafton Division I District semifinals
Brunswick (15-7) vs. Berea (14-8)
WHERE: Midview High School, 38199 Capel Road, Grafton.
AT STAKE: Berth in Saturday’s district championship game against either Strongsville (16-5) or Lorain (14-8).
THE SKINNY: Without 6-foot-10 West Virigina recruit Pat Forsythe, the Blue Devils have their hands full. Brunswick’s entire offense was built around their stud, and he’s out with a broken ankle. Look for Brunswick to slow the tempo and fire up a load of 3-pointers. If Matt Dunning, Ryan Badowski or Kyle Wheeler get hot, the Blue Devils can pull it out.