GRANGER TWP. — Starting center Taylore Robinson was out with a cold. Her backup, Sabrina Parsons, has missed most of the season due to injury.
In stepped freshman Jodi Johnson and up moved junior Madison Gilger as Wadsworth’s girls basketball team never missed a beat, shredding Medina County rival Highland 68-35 Thursday in Suburban League action.
Johnson, who experienced pressure situations as a key member of Wadsworth’s SL champion and regional-qualifying volleyball team, had nine points, 10 rebounds and four assists in the first start of her career, while Gilger, a 2.7-point scorer coming in, moved up in the rotation and contributed eight points and seven boards.
“I knew I had to come out and play like I always do,” Johnson said. “I’m going to bring my best every game.”
That’s pretty much a given with the Grizzlies (10-1, 6-0), who defeated the Hornets (7-4, 3-3) for the 36th straight time dating back to 1995.
“That’s a lot,” said the 15-year-old Johnson, who was born in 1997.
Speaking of a lot, Highland committed turnovers on its first five possessions, fell behind 9-0 at the 4:59 mark of the first period and finished the opening quarter with 12 miscues.
A fairly solid team in their own right, the Hornets prepared for the Grizzlies’ pressure by practicing against the freshman boys team and by using seven junior varsity players on defense, but it didn’t help. Highland had 29 turnovers on the night.
“It’s probably the most difficult pressure in Northeast Ohio,” said Hornets center Anna Rose Wiencek, who had all 12 of her points in the first half while adding 11 rebounds for the game. “They have 12 players that rotate in and out, so it’s a constant 100-mph pace.”
Despite their frenetic style, the Grizzlies committed just five turnovers and refrained from fouling, as Highland went 0-for-5 at the charity stripe.
“The game was turnovers,” Wadsworth coach Andrew Booth said. “When you’re getting shots on virtually every possession and eliminating shots for your opponent, it’s usually going to work out for you.”
It did. The Grizzlies led 19-10 after one, 46-22 at intermission thanks to a 27-point second quarter and, after going on a 17-0 run, 65-27 early in the fourth.
Wadsworth got a lot of solid performances, as point guard Rachel Goddard put up 15 points and three assists and shooting guard McKenzie O’Brien contributed 14 points, three boards and three assists. The guards had 23 of their 29 points in the first half.
The Grizzlies also got seven points, eight boards and two assists from always steady power forward Peyton Booth, but the most encouraging aspect of the game may have been Johnson’s continued steady play in an increased role.
“She’s not your average freshman,” Andrew Booth said. “It really helped her a lot having the volleyball team make a deep run. She has experienced pressure situations. She just goes out and plays basketball.”
Highland, which had just seven points over the first 14 minutes of the second half, got eight points from Mallory Adams and six points and six boards from AnnMarie Kirchner, but the Hornets were never in this one.
“A team like that, you can’t let them get a nice lead,” Highland coach Bernard Bolha said. “They smell blood and it’s over.
“But if you want to be the best, you’ve got to schedule the best and beat the best. If it’s 36 straight times (losing to Wadsworth), we’re going to try to end that streak. Hopefully, it’s the next game.”
Up just 20-17 at one point, Wadsworth pulled away to win the junior varsity game 41-25. Annie Gilbert had nine points for the Grizzlies and Malorie Bush had nine for the Hornets.
Highland junior varsity coach Rebecca Bixby was sporting a pair of bright green Chuck Taylor hightops.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.