BRUNSWICK — Following a blowout loss to Mentor last week, Medina guard Billy Geschke was shooting in an empty Medina Community Recreation Center with nothing else but his thoughts.
As the Goshen (Ind.) recruit chucked away, he couldn’t escape an undeniable fact: He was sick of losing.
The senior then called a players-only meeting less than 24 hours later. With a stick in one hand and a poker chip in the other, he let his emotions hang out.
The Bees used their heart-to-heart moment to pull off an exciting and physical 53-51 win over Brunswick in Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division action Tuesday.
“This is a great group of guys,” Geschke said. “After that Mentor loss, we had a players-only meeting. What we did last year was we took a stick and a poker chip and we said, ‘We’re going to stick together and we’re going to be all-in together.’ That was really special to us last year, and I think that was really a big thing.
“I didn’t know what was going on with us, but we talked to each other. We compete hard and play hard individually, but togetherness was what we needed to get better at.”
Medina (10-9, 3-5), which had lost its previous three games by a combined 67 points, received 26 points from Geschke, 11 points and seven boards from center Branden Wilkins and outstanding defense from small forward Dillon Wiesler, who surrendered just two points to physical Brunswick point guard Kyle Wheeler (game-high 29 points) in the decisive third quarter.
They were hardly alone in their efforts, as the Bees ratcheted up the pressure with strong help defense and rebounding. Brunswick (10-10, 3-5) missed its first 14 3-point attempts, clanked 12 of its first 16 second-half shots and had just three offensive rebounds on a night when Medina was without 6-foot-9 center Jon Teske (ankle).
“We came in here with a lot of emotion,” Wiesler said. “The biggest thing was just keeping our emotions in check, but it means a lot because they’ve been playing lights out lately. To come in and win at their place, it’s special. It’s something to be proud of, and I’m proud of everybody. We played hard.”
“Rebounding was huge and matching the intensity they bring,” he added. “Every guy stepped up. That’s basically it.”
With both student sections rocking, the atmosphere was top-notch until five third-quarter points from Wilkins put the Bees in front 37-27 heading into the fourth.
The only catch was Brunswick didn’t go down without a fight.
Wheeler scored 11 of the Blue Devils’ first 13 points in the final frame, but was offset by scores from Geschke, Wiesler, Logan Winkler and Mike Kaminski as Medina led 51-42 with just over a minute left.
The Bees still appeared to be in control when Brunswick’s Billy Applebee hit a 3-pointer following a Medina backcourt violation. But on the next possession, a 10-second call led to a hotly contested trifecta from Wheeler to make it 51-48 with 29.9 seconds left.
Geschke finally stemmed the tide with two free throws. The Blue Devils’ Zach Parker then hit a 3-pointer as time expired.
“I’m really proud with how we battled and the way we came out,” Bees coach Anthony Stacey said. “Anytime you win on the road, it’s tough. Here, it’s even tougher. I thought our kids responded well.”
If not for Medina pulling away in the third quarter, when Brunswick missed eight of its first nine shots, the story would have been an unbelievable scoring show between Medina County’s top two players.
It was on full display in the second quarter.
Geschke and Wheeler combined to score 21 of the quarter’s 31 points. Wheeler gave the Blue Devils a 21-16 lead when he recorded old-fashioned three-point plays on three straight possessions, while Geschke countered with seven straight points to give the Bees a 26-23 halftime lead.
“We’ve been buddies for a real long time, so it was so much fun to play against a friend,” Geschke said.
The difference came down to role players. Medina received four points and seven rebounds from power forward Kaminski, who was starting in place of Teske, zero turnovers from point guard Winkler, who suffered a broken nose that delayed the game for 23 minutes in the teams’ first meeting, and a clutch 3-pointer by Zach Bennett that gave the Bees their first 10-point lead.
Brunswick countered with 11 points from Parker and little else. Wilkins’ three offensive rebounds in the middle quarters matched what the Blue Devils’ roster had all game, and he also outscored taller counterparts Taylor Armagost (6-7) and Patrick Jarvis (6-5) by an 11-6 count.
For all of Wheeler’s efforts — he scored 14 fourth-quarter points — the lack of balance was disheartening to coach Joe Mackey, whose team was arguably the hottest in Northeast Ohio after knocking off Valley Division powers Shaker Heights and Garfield Heights last week.
“I thought their game plan defensively was as good as any team’s done against us all season long,” Mackey said. “Our offense was atrocious. … We couldn’t find the answers to score.
“Sometimes you’ve got to give a lot of credit to the other team, and tonight’s one of those nights.”
Medina had just two assists — one from Winkler and another from Bennett — while Brunswick had four of its seven in the fourth quarter.
The teams combined to make 21-of-27 free throws.
Steve Ficyk had 13 points as the Brunswick junior varsity won 43-38. Evan Schreck and Jake Hamel each had 10 for the Bees.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.