Even considering a brutal schedule and inexperienced roster, the record was clear: Wadsworth was 1-4 for the first time in 35 years.
It was gut-check time heading into a Suburban League game with Copley on Dec. 18, and the Grizzlies came through with an impressive 60-44 win.
They’ve been rolling since.
Wadsworth (6-5, 5-2) has won five of its last six games as it enters tonight’s home game against rival Cloverleaf (3-10, 1-6). High-quality decisions against Highland (78-72, OT) and Barberton (61-60) highlight the stretch, with the only loss to underrated Hudson.
According to coach Mike Schmeltzer Jr., the difference has been simple. His roster of four seniors, eight juniors and a sophomore was thrown to the wolves after entering the season with just 359 career points.
“We’re not hanging our heads because of what are record was to start,” he said. “We knew it was going to be tough. We did it for a reason. That was to get us prepared.”
The combination of junior big man Kyle Prunty (17.3 ppg over last six games) and sophomore small forward Austin White (17.0) has led the charge, while post Nathan Pound (10.2) and point guard Patrick Long (6.0) have provided support.
Though tonight is a trap game with a tough next week looming — at Medina (6-6) and Green (12-1, 6-1) — as long as Wadsworth continues to improve, it will be a tough out.
“The kids have seen everything,” Schmeltzer said. “We’ve seen the best full-court pressure in Hoover and Nordonia, we saw the best half-court defense in Green and we saw a matchup 2-3 against Hudson. We’ve been introduced to pretty much everything we will see throughout the year and it’s made us better.”
Black River (0-11, 0-7)
The Pirates have lost 14 of the last 15 games against archival Buckeye.
Averaging 36.4 points per game, Black River is on pace to have the worst offense in Medina County since Medina posted 30.5 in 1949-50.
Brunswick (6-7, 1-3)
Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum. Tonight, the Blue Devils take on Mentor, which averages 80.3 points per game behind an unorthodox press and 3-point heavy offense. Tuesday, Brunswick travels to Stow, which averages 44.8 points behind a robotic offense that lulls opponents to sleep. Caleb Potter (16.5 ppg) leads the Cardinals, while Matt Beech (18.7) paces the Bulldogs.
Senior Kyle Wheeler is averaging 16.5 points over his past six games.
Buckeye (8-3, 5-2)
The Bucks are 4-1 when their bench scores 12 or more points. Chris Vogt (12 points), Mike Bacho (3), John Tighe (2) combined for 17 in Tuesday’s win at Cloverleaf.
Junior small forward Garrett Beck needs 61 career points to reach 500.
Senior forward Matt Cox is 58-of-100 from the floor this season.
Buckeye has won 14 of the last 15 games against archrival Black River.
Cloverleaf (3-10, 1-6)
Leading scorer Robby Buckwald (college visit) will miss tonight’s game at Wadsworth. The senior forward is fifth in the Suburban League with a 15.1 scoring average, and didn’t play in the Colts’ 67-44 loss to the Grizzlies earlier in the season because of a sprained ankle.
Highland (8-4, 4-3)
The Hornets have a brutal next two games with Green (11-1, 6-1) and North Royalton (11-1). The Bulldogs, who won the first Suburban League meeting 68-55, are led by senior post Dan Fanelly (18.1 ppg) and sophomore forward Austin Marciniak (12.4; 15.7 over last 7 games). Meanwhile, the Bears average 65.9 points but are remarkably balanced with six players at 7.3 or better. Freshman center Omari Spellman (10.4) is the lone double-digit scorer.
Highland is 6-2 when its bench scores 10 or more points.
Medina (6-6, 1-3)
Over the course of six games from Dec. 21-Jan. 11, Billy Geschke averaged 27.8 points. It marked the most prolific stretch in Medina County since Cloverleaf’s Parker Hewit (28.2) from Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2008 and the best by a Medina player since Tony Stockman (32.2) from Feb. 1-18, 2000.
Tyler King is averaging 8.7 points over his past three games.
Jake Hamel made his varsity debut Monday against Normandy.
Wadsworth (6-5, 5-2)
The Grizzlies are 5-0 when they outscore an opponent from the free throw line. The advantage was 14-7 in Tuesday’s big win at Barberton.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.