July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Girls basketball: No. 2 team in Ohio awaits Grizzlies

The center and power forward are 6-foot-2 four-star recruits by ESPN.com. The point guard is neither tall nor nationally touted, but has a scholarship to Duquesne.

No matter which way it’s broken down on paper, the Wadsworth girls basketball team is an underdog against defending Division I state runner-up Kettering Fairmont at Sunday’s Classic in the Country.

McKenzie O'Brien

Making the situation tougher is an 8:45 p.m. start at Berlin Hiland’s Perry Reese Center.

“We’re treating it as close to normal as we can,” Grizzlies coach Andrew Booth said. “Our JVs play at 6, so we do have that to watch. In that regard, it’s a little bit of what we’re used to. Our kids have been down there enough times and have their own routine as to what to do.”

The Firebirds (12-0) are ranked second in the Associated Press Division I state poll. They have won by an average of 31.5 points, and only Centerville
(69-62) came within single digits.

Leading the way are twin towers Kathryn Westbeld and Makayla Watterman.

Westbeld is receiving interest from UConn and was a second-team All-Ohioan a year ago. She owns an impressive line of 13.8 points,9.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting .684 from the floor and is ranked the eighth-best Class of 2014 power forward in the country by ESPN. Watterman averages 9.1 points and 6.0 boards, yet is one spot ahead of Westbeld in the ESPN rankings.

While Westbeld and Watterman control the paint, point guard Chelsea Welch is a 5-9 dynamo who patrols the perimeter. The senior is averaging
15.0 points, 4.0 assists and 4.3 steals and is best known for her defense.

The Grizzlies (13-1) are ranked ninth in the AP poll and counter with better depth and a high-octane transition offense. Reigning Gazette MVP Rachel Goddard (12.0 ppg) is the clear-cut leader, but the recent hot play of shooting guard McKenzie O’Brien (10.0 ppg; 13.0 over last 6 games) and center Taylore Robinson (8.1) has given Wadsworth an extra edge.

“(The Firebirds) play seven kids and the top three players never come off the floor, so tempo is going to be very important,” Booth said. “If we can speed the pace up, it may not pay dividends right away, but hopefully as the game wears on that will help us out.”

Black River (2-12, 1-8)

Heading into Wednesday’s loss against Lutheran West, center Morgan Leach was averaging 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.

 The Pirates’ seven-game losing streak has a good chance of ending Saturday at Oberlin (1-9, 0-8). The Phoenix is coming off a 36-22 win over Open Door, but its previous nine losses were by an average of 27.1 points. Kelsey Brooks has scored nearly half of Oberlin’s points.

Brunswick (10-5, 3-2)

The Blue Devils’ winning streak very well could reach double-digits, as Parma (7-7), Brecksville (7-6), Strongsville (5-8) and Elyria (9-5) are next on the schedule. The Redmen are led by former Highland coach Cassie Seth.

 Brunswick has surrendered less than 40 points in each of its last five games. Its season mark of 41.4 trails only Wadsworth (35.8) in Medina County.
 Akron University recruit and St. Joseph guard Greta Burry was held scoreless Wednesday by the Blue Devils.

Buckeye (5-9, 5-4)

The Bucks are 3-0 when they outscore an opponent from the free throw line. They owned a 10-4 advantage in Wednesday’s victory over Brooklyn.

 Senior center Jessica Banas is averaging 11.7 points, 12.7 rebounds and 7.3 blocks over her past three games.

Cloverleaf (6-9, 2-6)

Sophomore forward Lauren Gokey is averaging 8.8 rebounds over the past 10 games.

 Second-leading scorer Emily Civittolo missed Wednesday’s loss to Wadsworth with an elbow injury. The junior forward has made 24 of her last 28 free throws.

 Next week’s game at Nordonia has been moved up to Tuesday because of a scheduling conflict.

Highland (9-5, 4-3)

The Hornets need three wins to clinch consecutive winning seasons for the first time in 11 years.

 Wednesday’s home game with Revere has been moved back to Thursday due a scheduling conflict with the Highland wrestling team.

 The Hornets play three of the next four games on the road, where they are 7-1.

Medina (11-3, 5-0)

The Bees travel to Hudson on Saturday for another tough Northeast Ohio Conference cross-division matchup. The Explorers are averaging 66.1 points during their seven-game win streak, with Hannah Boesinger (22.4 ppg during run) and Jackie Ulmer (14.0) combining for 54.8 percent of them.

 Medina’s next three games are on the road, where they have won 10 of their last 11 dating back to last season.

 The open date left by the Florida trip fiasco remains just that, meaning the Bees will likely finish the regular season with 21 games.

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.

Albert Grindle About Albert Grindle

Albert Grindle is a sportswriter for the Gazette. He can be reached at 330-721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.