WADSWORTH — Excuses are for losers, and Avon had none of them Tuesday.
The Eagles could have been swayed by a long bus ride, less-than-enthusiastic crowd and the fact they play a West Shore Conference game against Elyria Catholic on Friday.
Instead, they completely dominated the second half in a 56-38 non-league win over Wadsworth.
“It was a good win for us,” point guard Jack Poyle said. “We drove over an hour here. It was a long bus ride, but we stayed focused throughout our trip. Wadsworth is a very good team and a very big school. It was a very challenging win for us.”
After falling behind 21-18 in the second quarter, Avon (10-6) took the lead for good with a 10-0 run that stretched into the third. It then seized control with a 7-0 spurt to begin the fourth, and slammed the door by executing its spread offense to perfection.
Point guard Jack Poyle and shooting guard Brian Kelly were at the forefront as they admirably handled Wadsworth’s 1-2-2 press. Poyle finished with 13 points, five assists and three steals, while Kelly had a team-high 15 points, four dimes and three steals.
Backup Zack Tolbert added 11 of his 13 points in the second half, which the Eagles won 30-17, on a night when starting center Matt Lawrence was in foul trouble.
“Our guards carried us,” coach Kevin Sapara said. “They handled the ball really well and handled pressure. They hit some big shots, and we hit our free throws down the stretch.”
After its man defense held the Grizzlies (7-8) to a putrid 8-of-32 shooting through three quarters, Avon still had to finish strong while leading 36-28. Poyle started the deciding sequence with a pretty feed to Cordell Winters, and Wadsworth coach Mike Schmeltzer Jr. picked up a technical foul seconds later.
Kelly buried both free throws to make it 40-28, and then rattled home a 3-pointer to cap a 7-0 spurt in which Wadsworth had the ball for less than 2 seconds.
Tolbert shined for the rest of the quarter as he scored seven straight points.
“If you get that 7-0 run, they can always come back because they always have time, but if we finish strong, we can keep them down,” Poyle said.
Wadsworth was led junior power forward Kyle Prunty’s 20 points and 14 rebounds, while sophomore small forward Austin White added 14 points. The duo scored the Grizzlies’ first 16 points until Anthony Palecek made two free throws, then scored the next 18 over a 17:08 span.
The lack of scoring outside of Prunty and White wasn’t the biggest issue, though, despite the 10 other players combining for four points on 1-of-16 shooting. Twelve first-half turnovers never allowed Wadsworth to get much momentum, and its press was ineffective in the second half after sparking in the second quarter.
The bottom line was not much went right over the final 18-plus minutes, and the season-low scoring total reflected it.
“Between the turnovers and the (5-of-20) first half, you’re not going to beat anybody,” Schmeltzer said.
Sapara and Wadsworth junior varsity coach D.J. Schrock played basketball together at Muskingum. Their relationship was a key factor in the one-year contract between the schools.
Former Wadsworth standout Ben Falkenberg, the only player in Medina County history to win two Gazette MVP awards (2003, ’04), was in the house.
Joel Kipfer and Tyson Heideman each had 15 points as the Grizzlies’ junior varsity won 45-42.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.