MEDINA — Home games against anyone not named Wadsworth have been almost automatic for Medina’s girls basketball team during the past two-plus seasons.
The Bees got a wakeup call Saturday.
Stow came out swinging, dominated the paint and finished strong in a 58-52 win in Northeast Ohio Conference cross-division action.
The underrated Bulldogs (11-3), whose losses are to Valley Division stalwarts Twinsburg (14-0), Hudson (12-2) and Solon (9-3), outscored the Bees
(11-3) 9-4 once Sarah Kinch (game- and season-high 19 points) brought Medina’s deficit to within one on a pair of free throws with 2:15 remaining.
“It’s our second loss at home and fourth in three years,” coach Chris Hassinger said. “You kind of get that arrogance that it’s just going to get done, but when you play some of these teams like Stow and Wadsworth comes to your place, you can’t just walk on the court.”
Unheralded string-bean center Madison Baer had 18 points and 17 rebounds for Stow, including 11 points via offensive boards. Shooting guard Samantha Shaver added 12 of her 15 points in the first half, when the Bulldogs forged a 26-14 lead behind crisp execution on both ends of the court.
Kinch was the best player on the floor in the first and fourth quarters, when she made 7-of-9 field goals and 4-of-4 free throws. The four other Medina starters shot 1-of-17 from the floor and were saved by the clutch play of backup guards Holly Rhodes (11 points) and Casey Midlik (10).
The posts in particular had a tough time against the left-handed Baer, who consistently gobbled backside rebounds whenever Shaver and point guard Abbie Lawson (10 points) missed 10-footers. Medina’s three centers combined for nine points and four rebounds, which were three points more and two rebounds less than Baer compiled in the first quarter.
“We were pretty bad,” Hassinger said. “When you give a team that’s a good team that many second-chance opportunities — and sometimes third-chance opportunities — you’re not going to beat them.”
For all of the Bees’ struggles, gutsy shooting and determined rebounding by Rhodes and Midlik in the third quarter got them back in the game. Midlik went on a 5-0 mini-run with a pair of catch-and-shoot buckets, and Rhodes gave Medina its first lead (38-37) on a 3-pointer.
The teams traded points for the next 7 minutes, but the Bees could never get over the hump because they put Stow in the bonus with 3:37 left in the third quarter. The Bulldogs made just 12-of-23 free throws in the second half, but Lawson and Shaver rattled home big ones in the final minute that kept the advantage at two possessions.
The Bees appeared to have a glimmer of hope when Madi Tata made a contested baseline 5-footer and Kinch came out of nowhere to steal a pass all but destined for a layup. Tata missed a 3-pointer down 54-50 with 48 seconds left, giving way for Lawson hit 1-of-2 free throws.
On the next possession, Kinch countered with a two free throws at 29.8 seconds to make it 55-52, but Shaver managed to make her second free throw to push the Stow lead back to four.
The sequence set up what was effectively Medina’s last gasp, as Kinch was stripped by Christina Vaughan while bullying her way through the top of the key. Lawson then made two free throws to put the game on ice.
Ultimately, the Bees showed plenty of grit against a quality opponent. Their rebounding and interior defense must improve quickly, however, with Hudson power forward Hannah Boesinger waiting for them Saturday.
The Youngstown State recruit is averaging 22.4 points during the Explorers’ seven-game winning streak.
“There was one time late in the game when we had four people guarding the ball and no one guarding the basket,” Hassinger said. “That’s just mental communication.”
Sadie Oblak had nine points as Medina’s junior varsity won 51-17.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.