It was the best kind of two-way street. The Medina boys basketball team’s great postseason run gave the community a reason to pull together, while the community’s incredible support was equally inspirational to the team.
The Bees’ Cinderella story ended Saturday night when they fell 51-39 to Toledo Whitmer in the University of Akron Division I Regional final, but it’s something the kids on the floor and the people in the stands will talk about for years.
After going just 5-15 in the regular season, the Bees matched their win total with five tournament wins while becoming just the second Medina boys team and third squad in Medina County history to reach a regional championship.
While it’s true the Bees didn’t have to beat any legitimate state title contenders in their first five tournament games, that isn’t their fault and doesn’t lessen their accomplishment. Until Saturday, they beat everyone put in front of them — and they did so in a manner that made everyone proud.
“What they’ve done for this community is unbelievable,” rookie head coach Anthony Stacey said. “They brought a complete community together and showed them what it means to be a team.”
While the 1980-81 Wadsworth team that reached the Class AAA state finals and 1982-83 Medina team that advanced to the state semis both had their share of miraculous victories along the tournament trail, what made the 2011-12 Bees’ run so memorable was that it was so unexpected.
“You don’t dream something like this coming off 5-15,” Stacey said. “It’s not your first dream. They’re usually nightmares.”
With each postseason win — first over county foes Wadsworth and Brunswick, then Nordonia, Firestone and Elyria — the dream got bigger and better.
Short of a state championship, it was going to end somewhere, but the Bees as a team and Medina as a community went out in style.
As the clock ticked down, the classy Stacey made sure to get all 15 players in uniform into the game, giving each of his core players huge hugs as they exited for the final time.
There was dejection from 6-foot-5, 230-pound University at Buffalo football recruit Mason Schreck when he fouled out after battling a pair of Whitmer centers — 6-7, 275-pound Chris Wormley and 6-8, 300-pound Storm Norton — who made the muscular senior look small by comparison.
There were uncontrollable tears from gutsy, never-quit junior guard Billy Geschke, who scored all eight of his team’s first-quarter points and battled valiantly to keep Medina in the game.
There was stoicism and maturity from talented Michigan State recruit Kenny Kaminski after he shot an uncharacteristic 1-for-10 and scored just three points against the best defense the Bees saw all season.
All three players, however, made it a point to thank the community in a postgame press conference in front of about 10 media members. They did it again afterward when patiently and politely talking to reporters one-on-one.
“It’s a special thing,” the 6-9, 250-pound Kaminski said. “We were able to pull a community together. That’s really what it is.”
That community included the Medina students, who turned out in huge numbers after several regular-season games where fewer than 75 were on hand. Not only did they turn out, they were at times clever and at others heartfelt, but always energetic, entertaining and loud.
Upon spotting a talented Elyria player in the stands opposite them — no small feat, considering 2,223 people were on hand — who nearly led his team to a victory over the Bees in the regional semis, Medina students started the sing-song, four-syllable chant “Ko-dy Ben-der” until he smiled, stood up and took a bow.
Later, using the same melody, they played their nightly version of “Where is Waldo?” A student dressed as Waldo quietly goes and sits somewhere in the opponent’s stands, leading the Medina student body to begin its rhythmic chant of “Where’s Waldo?” until he stands up and reveals himself to huge applause.
Finally, when it became clear their team was not going to pull out a victory on this night, Medina students broke out the sing-song chant “Awesome season” in the closing moments.
“That’s definitely an adrenaline kick for all of us,” Schreck said. “My face lights up every time I look up and see them chanting.”
In all, Medina sold 1,051 $6 tickets at the school, with many more people showing up at the door and forking over $8. At least two-thirds of the crowd was Medina-based and the vast majority of fans were dressed in the school’s primary color of green, making the night look like a giant St. Patrick’s parade.
What it really was, of course, was a community falling in love with its team — and that team loving its community for that support.
“It’s been,” Schreck said, “the best time in my life.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.