BARBERTON — The Wadsworth boys basketball team finally got the signature win it was looking for Tuesday night.
Down 11 early in the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies got solid contributions from a number of players as they battled back to record a thrilling 61-60 non-league victory over a very good Barberton team.
“This is a huge one for us,” Wadsworth coach Mike Schmeltzer Jr. said after his squad improved to 6-5. “Barberton’s been playing great and you’re in this hostile environment. To have that many guys step up and contribute at crucial times, it’s huge for us.”
Out of timeouts, the Grizzlies got their winning points after Barberton’s Scott Sabol missed the front end of a one-and-one with 19.4 seconds to go.
Wadsworth’s Austin White rebounded and pushed the ball up the floor, but when his drive was cut off, he dished back to Barry Fernholz. Fernholz tried to drive in almost the exact same area and also got cut off, forcing him to turn and dish back to Kyle Prunty.
The left side of the lane then suddenly parted like the Red Sea, allowing the 6-foot-5 junior to drive in for an uncontested layup with 7.6 ticks on the clock.
“I saw one of their players had fallen down,” said Prunty, who had Wadsworth’s last three buckets to finish with 18 points and seven rebounds. “I was wide open.”
When Barberton (8-3) called time, Schmeltzer made one thing clear to his players: Don’t let former Medina resident Joshua Williams, a 6-foot-3 sophomore point guard who is going to have his pick of big-time colleges to attend, have a chance to determine the outcome.
Double-teamed by Tucker Robinson and Martice Jackson, the lightning-quick Williams (20 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals) was unable to get his hands on Barberton’s first inbound attempt, which was deflected out of bounds on the sideline with 5.5 seconds left.
Following another timeout, Magics coach Ken Rector had his point guard inbound the ball. Williams, who is averaging 19.1 points and has four games of 26 or more, managed to get a quick return pass and dashed up the right sideline. Wadsworth quickly recovered and forced a pass to the corner, where Sabol (14 points) missed what would have been his fifth 3-pointer of the evening.
“He’s amazing,” Prunty said of Williams, whose family moved to Barberton from Medina prior to his eighth-grade year. “He’s one of the best guards in this area.”
“He’s one of the best I’ve seen at that age,” Schmeltzer added. “He does it all. The ball is stuck to his hand, he can shoot, he can penetrate and he can pass.”
Due to the one-on-one skills of Williams, Wadsworth spent most of the night playing a variety of zone defenses, but when the Magics scored four points in the last 5 seconds of the third period and the first five of the fourth to go up 57-46 with 6:56 to play, the Grizzlies had no choice but to go man and try to apply pressure.
“Joshua Williams is so good he’s going to adjust and pick you apart if you play that way the whole game,” Schmeltzer said. “You’ve got to wait until the right time and hope for the best. It was basically then or never, and it took them out of what they were doing.”
Barberton, which hit nine 3-pointers, made a lot of silly mistakes and some even worse mental decisions while scoring just three points over the final 6½ minutes, but the Grizzlies’ defensive effort and intensity had something to do with that.
Offensively, Wadsworth got solid nights from Prunty, who had two tip-ins just prior to his game-winner, point guard Patrick Long (career-high 14 points, 4 3-pointers), shooting guard Fernholz (4 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists), small forward White (9 points, 7 boards, 4 assists) and power forward Anthony Palecek (10 first-half points), who started because Nathan Pound wasn’t 100 percent due to illness.
It all added up to the Grizzlies’ most impressive victory of the season.
“Everyone stepped up and did what they had to do,” Prunty said. “We wanted to win this game more than anything.”
Williams’ older brother, Jerry, a muscular 6-4, 240-pounder, will soon be getting a Division I football scholarship to play defensive end, while younger brother Jonathan, a nationally recognized eighth-grade point guard, is likely to start for the Barberton basketball team next season.
The Grizzlies were 9-for-9 at the line before Barberton attempted its first free throw. Wadsworth was perfect on 11 attempts through three quarters and managed to come back despite going 3-for-8 in the fourth period. Joshua Williams, who was 7-for-8, was the only Barberton player to make a free throw. The rest of the team was 0-for-4.
Wadsworth won the junior varsity game 64-58 behind 22 points from Tyson Heideman, 16 from Nick Hewitt and 12 from Joel Kipfer.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.