By Chad Grant
GREEN — It was a big-game atmosphere. The Green fans were fired up and the student section was chanting at tip-off, ready for the home team to pull of the upset.
Enter “The Silencer” — aka Jessie Gearhart.
The senior wing and her Wadsworth teammates quickly quieted the Bulldog fans with a fast start and dominating defensive performance to earn a 41-25 win Saturday and lock up a share of the Suburban League crown for the 20th time in the last 22 seasons.
Behind seven quick points from Gearhart (11 points, 6 rebounds) and stifling full-court defense, the Grizzlies (13-3, 11-0) jumped to a 12-0 lead just 3:30 into the game.
“I know that is the best start we have had in my seven years here,” Wadsworth coach Andrew Booth said. “At the end of the first quarter it was 16-6 and I turned to (my assistant coaches) and said, ‘Usually at the end of the first quarter here we’re down 16-6.’ It was good that we got off to a good start.”
The Wadsworth press made things so difficult on Green (10-5, 8-3) in the opening minutes the Bulldogs didn’t get a shot off until the 4:45 mark and didn’t score until 30 seconds later.
Even as Green’s defense settled in and after the initial surge, Wadsworth continued to dominate with its defense. The Bulldogs had six points and eight turnovers in the first quarter.
“We always try and play a full 32 minutes,” Gearhart said. “But sometimes we start out slower and we have to pick it up in the second half. This time I think we started out strong and got a (12-point lead).
I think we needed that to get the win.”
With things getting out of hand quickly, Green senior guard Lydia Corle, who had 22 points when the teams last met on December 14, tried to get her team back in the game.
Gearhart again took center stage. She and teammate Christy Cingel (6 points, 6 rebounds) shut down Corle and never let the Bulldogs’ best player rally her team.
“She is a good player,” Gearhart said. “She drives a lot and we are about the same size, so it’s a pretty good matchup. I just denied her and tried to not let her get the ball. When she got it, I would play her for the drive and try not to let her score.”
Cingel, who isn’t as tall as Gearhart and gave up about four inches to Corle, added, “We just tried not to let her get touches. That was one of our main goals for the game and we tried to keep her away from the rim because we know she is a very good player and she likes to drive a lot.”
Corle (11 points, 6 rebounds) finished 4-of-12 from the field and had only two points in the second half on a pair of free throws.
“The funny thing is we never go into a game saying, ‘You have her or you have her,”’ Booth said. “We don’t match up just because we run and jump and switch so many picks. But, it’s always funny how two of your best defenders always find a way onto the opponent’s best player. That’s not by me telling them. That’s because they want that assignment.”
With the clamps fully on Corle, the Bulldogs couldn’t find another player to step up. No other Green player had more than three points.
“I was really proud of our defense other than the first quarter,” Green coach Tracy Miller said. “We just couldn’t score. We had a hard time scoring and their defensive pressure really hurt us.”
While the points became harder to come by for both teams in the second half, Wadsworth, which held a 30-20 rebounding advantage, continued to pull away by getting second and third chances with 17 offensive rebounds.
Leading the way on the offensive glass were Cingel (5 offensive rebounds), Sabrina Parsons (3) and Taylore Robinson (3).
Peyton Booth added nine points off the bench for the Grizzlies, who can clinch the outright SL crown Wednesday vs. Cloverleaf, and Kara Long had seven points and four blocks.
The tip-off was moved from 7:30 p.m. to 2:30 due to another event at the school Saturday night.
• The Grizzlies junior varsity also put in a dominating performance with a 55-32 win. Taylor Wyatt led Wadsworth with 15 points and Madison Gilger chipped in 10.