SOLON — While Logan Winkler admits wearing a protective face mask has been an adjustment, the Medina guard will never use it as an excuse.
The senior, however, has been waiting for a breakout shooting night since the addition of the head gear earlier this month.
Winkler got it Friday, as he looked like NBA face-mask-wearing guard Rip Hamilton in leading the Bees to a 69-58 win over Solon in a Northeast Ohio Conference cross-divisional game.
“It’s definitely a huge relief off my shoulders,” he said. “The last game was rough, and the game before that was pretty rough, too, but it feels good. I’m starting to get used to it.”
The 5-foot-10 point guard came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, as he hit three 3-pointers in the opening quarter en route to a 14-point night.
Combine that with six assists, four steals and even a blocked shot and Winkler forgot about the layer of plastic across his face.
“I’m getting closer and closer to being more comfortable with it,” he said. “It’s not that bad, really, but the only thing different about it is looking down. It’s not as bad as everyone thinks.
“I can see everything fine, but I just had a bad week (shooting), and I just knew I had to get more shots up and my teammates gave me opportunities.”
After his hot start, Winkler stepped up again in the third quarter and set up Billy Geschke (game-high 25 points) on two occasions during a 9-0 run by the Bees (9-6).
While Winkler’s statistics sometimes aren’t noticeable to the average fan, second-year coach Anthony Stacey was quick to stress the importance of his floor general.
“He’s one of those guys. It doesn’t show up in the stats, but he gets us into all of our plays, usually doesn’t turn the ball over, makes a ton of free throws and doesn’t get a lot of recognition,” he said. “But when he’s not there, you definitely know it.”
As Winkler set the table on both ends of the floor, Geschke overcome a rough first half to help Medina obtain an 18-point lead in the second.
After having just four points on 2-of-7 shooting and having an uncharacteristic off night from the free throw line, the senior had nine points in the third quarter and 12 in the fourth as the Bees held off a couple of runs by the Comets (5-9), who were playing without 15-point scorer Hari Fair.
“Today was the most free throws he’s ever missed in a game since I’ve been here,” Stacey said of Geschke’s four misses. “It’s really nice when your senior guards and senior leadership down the stretch take care of the ball.”
Forwards Dillon Wiesler and Branden Wilkins scored 11 and 10 points, respectively. Wilkins also pulled down seven rebounds.
Solon struggled against Medina diamond-and-one full-court pressure, which ultimately did in the Comets in the opening seconds of the third quarter.
Senior Josh Glass tried to bring them back, however, as he recorded an impressive night of 21 points and 12 rebounds.
“I thought (Solon) never quit and fought really hard,” Stacey said. “(Glass) is a heckuva player. He’s as good as we’ve seen this year. He carried them and tried to bring them back, and we were able to hold on.”
Sophomore guard A.C. Schreiber poured in 18 points as Medina’s junior varsity team cruised to a 47-24 win.
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.