MEDINA — Punch, counterpunch.
That’s how Medina’s girls basketball game with North Royalton went Saturday. The Bees finally came up with the knockout blow in the fourth quarter and earned a hard-fought 59-53 win to open Northeast Ohio Conference River Division play.
Medina (5-0, 1-0) threw the first punch, taking an early 14-9 lead while forcing nine North Royalton turnovers and allowing just one basket in the first quarter.
The Bears (2-2, 0-1) managed to keep things close by going 6-for-6 from the charity stripe. The lone basket of the quarter was a 3-pointer from Alison Smolinski (8 points) with 6 seconds left that started a 14-0 Bears run.
“We knew they were going to play us like that,” Medina coach Chris Hassinger said. “They’re a very good team that lost one real good player from last year. We knew they were going to be more balanced this year. I warned my team that our conference was going to be balanced this year and that is a top-25 team.
“They are one of the hardest teams we’ll play this season because they play so hard on every single possession.”
Sarah Kinch (11 points) finally put a halt to the Bears hot streak with a jumper in the lane that sent her team on a 10-2 sprint to retake the lead at 24-22.
In the bonus 7 seconds into the second quarter, North Royalton again did most of its work at the charity stripe and ended the half 12-of-16 on freebies and forged a 26-all tie headed to the locker room.
The game went back and forth in the second half with neither team able to permanently seize momentum.
“We are definitely a team that plays in spurts,” North Royalton coach Steffani Jaworski said. “Unfortunately, their spurts came at better times than our spurts did. We got in foul trouble (in the second half) and had to go into a zone and they executed off of it.”
For Medina, the duo of Angela Tesny (15 points, 6 assist, 3 steals) and Faith Constance (11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists) took advantage of the open spaces created in the zone and scored 21 of their team’s 33 second half points.
“North Royalton is a really good team. They beat us once last year and they are in our conference, so this was a really big game,” Tesny said. “At halftime, ‘Hass’ really got on us about playing our hardest and not letting them get to us. We just tried to calm it down, keep playing hard and get everyone the ball.”
Each of Constance’s second-half baskets came at critical times. The senior guard scored five points during a quick eight-point run that put Medina up 42-35 late in the third. She then banged home a three with 6:34 to play that put her team up 47-44 and give the lead for good.
Constance was reluctant to accept credit for her big shots, and instead focused on those that got her the ball in good shooting spots.
“It was close the whole time,” Constance said. “So every point was a big point.
Tesny closed out the game scoring seven of her team’s last 12 points, including 4-of-6 free throws.
“We know that she is going to have to score for us,” Hassinger said. “She just wants to deliver the ball, deliver the ball. We said, ‘Ang, you have got to look to score’ because we know she can shoot it and she really stepped up huge for us.”
Tesny was perfect from the field, going 4-for-4, including three 3-pointers.
Medina won the junior varsity game 39-34 led by nine points from Christina Vukovich and seven from Rayne Odum. Darby O’Connor led the Bears with 12.
Contact Chad Grant at email@example.com.