By Richard Doyle
WOOSTER — The Wadsworth boys basketball team is young and talented. All season long, there have been players who have demonstrated phenomenal skills in short spurts, but there was always one key ingredient missing: leadership.
The Grizzlies took a huge step forward in filling that piece of the puzzle Saturday with the emergence of shooting guard Barry Fernholz in a thrilling
62-55 non-league victory over a solid Wooster team.
Fernholz (8 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals) matured as a leader in front of the Wadsworth faithful.
“All year Coach (Mike Schmeltzer Jr.) has been asking me to be a leader and step up,” Fernholz said. “Being down at halftime (31-25), somebody had to step up, so I took it as a challenge.”
While certainly putting together a well-rounded performance on the stat sheet was satisfying, Fernholz’s calm demeanor against an athletic press and his emergence as a “coach on the court” pleased Schmeltzer the most.
“We know, because we see him in practice every day, that Barry is a special player,” Schmeltzer said. “His strength is when he attacks the basket, and he did a great job of that tonight. Leadership was big for him tonight, and he took control.”
The first half was not pretty, as the Generals were able to force 14 turnovers via a mixture of full-court and half-court presses. Things began to worsen as another of Wadsworth’s young guns, big man Kyle Prunty, was relegated to the bench midway through the first quarter after picking up his second foul.
“Losing Kyle early changed our game a bit,” Schmeltzer said. “We talked at halftime about the need to get the inside-out game working.”
Wadsworth worked the plan to perfection, outscoring the Generals 16-3 after falling behind seven just before halftime. Prunty (16 points, 5 rebounds) contributed mightily by scoring eight points from the inside, while sharpshooter Austin White (12 points) nailed three of his four 3-pointers.
The Generals managed to claw back, taking a 46 – 45 lead in the first minute of the 4th quarter.
Enter Fernholz, as the junior hit a critical three-point play. The teams exchanged baskets until a timeout was called by Wadsworth with the Grizzlies up 55-52 and only 3 minutes remaining.
Schmeltzer could be heard in the huddle instilling confidence into his young men, “We are going to finish this game. Now go out there and execute.”
Execute they did, as the ballhandling trio of Anthony Palecek (9 points), Patrick Long (8 points) and Fernholz protected the ball to near-perfection, and the Generals were scoreless for the rest of the game.
“That felt great,” Fernholz said.
Contact Richard Doyle at email@example.com.