GREEN — With 2:30 left on the clock, it was do-or-die time for the Green and Wadsworth boys basketball teams.
The score was knotted up and both teams needed a key Suburban League win.
Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, they fell flat.
The Bulldogs pulled away down the stretch to earn a crucial 61-53 win and stay just on game behind league-leading Nordonia (13-2, 9-0), while Wadsworth now faces a tough three-game hole down the stretch.
Green (14-1, 8-1) finished the game on a 12-4 run, and the Grizzlies (7-7, 6-3) will need a lot to happen if they have any chance at their first SL title since 2003-04.
“I was proud of our kids,” longtime Bulldogs coach Mark Kinsley said. “It was gut-check time tonight, and we played from behind most of the night. It seemed like every time we got a little bit of a lead, we couldn’t hold onto it. I was very impressed with how Wadsworth played tonight.”
Green power forward Dan Fanelly (career-high 32 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals , 4 blocks) was a one-man show and kicked off the scoring spurt with a tough driving layup to give his team a 51-49 lead.
Wadsworth came up empty on its ensuing possession, allowing Green’s Josh Pritchard (11 points, 6 rebounds) to split a pair of free throws.
The Grizzlies failed to score again, and Fanelly was there to capitalize. When the 6-foot-6 senior drove deep into the lane, the Wadsworth defense collapsed on him. Fanelly then calmly kicked the ball to Pritchard, who buried a 3-point dagger.
“We knew they were going to come in and compete,” Fanelly said. “They are one of our big Suburban League rivals, and, like our coach said to us, it was time for a gut-check game. We weathered the storm and got through it to get the ‘W.’”
“I wouldn’t say we fell apart,” Grizzlies coach Mike Schmeltzer Jr. added. “It was just that a tough, veteran team like Green took it over in the last 3 minutes. They don’t make mistakes, and they don’t force anything bad. They made their free throws and they played great defense.”
Wadsworth tried to rally, but a stellar 6-of-8 performance at the line by the Bulldogs proved to be too much.
The game opened in a completely different manner than it finished.
Wadsworth came out clicking on all cylinders, jumping to a 19-10 lead behind forwards Austin White (15 points, 6 rebounds) and Kyle Prunty (14, 9).
“We started chasing (White) from that point on, and I thought Austin Marciniak did a great job after those first eight points,” Kinsley said. “He had no other responsibilities other than to not let Austin White catch the ball.”
White and Prunty scored 14 of their team’s 19 points over the opening 5:35, including eight of the first 10 via White.
“We came out ready to play,” Schmeltzer said. “I was proud of our guys for the effort.”
White and Prunty were key at the start of the third for Wadsworth, too, scoring seven consecutive points as it built a 34-30 lead with 5:15 to play in the third.
Green rallied again behind Fanelly, who had all eight Green points to start the quarter, to tie the game at 34.
The game went back-and-forth the rest of the way, with neither team leading by more than four until the decisive run.
The officials were still in the locker room at the start of the third quarter when the person responsible for alerting them was no where to be found.
Green won the junior varsity game 53-38. Curtis Corle led the Bulldogs with 16 points, while Joel Kipfer led the Grizzlies with 17.