June 28, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Kyle Prunty comes up big in tough loss for Grizzlies

COPLEY — Wadsworth center Kyle Prunty was the best player on the court Tuesday, but Cuyahoga Falls was the better boys basketball team.

The Black Tigers scored eight of the final 11 points in overtime, including a go-ahead 3-pointer by Angelo Cugini, in rallying for a 48-42 victory over the Grizzlies in an opening-round matchup at the Copley Division I Sectional.

Wadsworth's Nathan Pound grabs a rebound against Cuyahoga Falls Joshua Ricker during the first quarter. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY RON SCHWANE)

Prunty collected game highs of 24 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots for No. 11 seed Wadsworth (12-11), but it wasn’t enough to stop the well-balanced attack of eighth-seeded Cuyahoga Falls (14-9).

“They’re a very good team and they presented a different look for us with all of their trapping,” said Prunty, a 6-foot-5 junior. “It was hard for us to get into our offense in the second half because they kept throwing so many things out there, which kept us off-balance.

“This game is going to hurt for a while, but I’m proud of our team because we definitely proved a lot of people wrong with the good season we had.”

Backup shooting guard Matt Lawrence led the Black Tigers with a season-high 16 points, while point guard Devin Speicher had eight points, five boards and three assists. Coach Rob Slone’s squad trailed 25-15 early in the third quarter, but outscored the Grizzlies 33-17 the rest of the way.

All five Cuyahoga Falls starters scored between five and eight points, while the Wadsworth starters not named Prunty combined for eight points on 4-for-24 shooting.

The Grizzlies also missed their first 14 3-pointers before Tucker Robinson buried a meaningless trey at the end of OT. Wadsworth entered the evening shooting 35 percent beyond the arc this season.

“I would take those shots we got any day because we had pretty good looks on all of them,” Grizzlies coach Mike Schmeltzer Jr. said. “They just didn’t fall.

“There’s not much of an explanation for it, except you never know how you’re going to shoot in the first round of the tournament because it’s a very different environment.”

Prunty made 9-of-16 field goals and 6-of-8 free throws while playing 34 of the game’s 36 minutes. He scored all six of Wadsworth’s points in the fourth quarter, which came as part of a 13-minute span that saw no other Grizzlies player put the ball through the basket.

Along the way, Prunty also kept Black Tigers counterpart Cugini (5 points, 4 rebounds) — a much more hyped talent around Greater Akron — from doing anything in the paint.

“Kyle is a great kid who plays his butt off,” Schmeltzer said. “He’s also a great teammate and a cornerstone player who you can build around. With Kyle and (sophomore swingman) Austin White coming back, we’re already excited about next season.”

Forward Anthony Palecek and point guard Robinson each scored five points off the bench for Wadsworth, while shooting guard Barry Fernholz added four. White had a season-low two points, six rebounds and two assists before fouling out.

Cuyahoga Falls was limited to 33 points in regulation and did not attempt its first free throw until Speicher drew a shooting foul with 4:40 left in the fourth. It entered OT just 2-for-5 at the line thanks to the Grizzlies’ rock-solid half-court pressure.

“This was our best defensive effort of the year,” Schmeltzer said. “The guys never stopped fighting and played through a lot of stretches when our shots just weren’t falling.

“That’s what I’ll take from tonight more than anything else — the heart and determination that our guys showed from start to finish.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.