COPLEY TWP. — Minutes after stunning sixth-seeded Medina 52-44 in the Copley Division I Sectional semifinals Wednesday, Highland boys basketball coach Michael Murphy gave a brief locker room speech, smiled to his players and said, “Let’s make a helluva lot of noise.”
The volume and wackiness that ensued led to a lot of weird looks from fans standing outside.
The 10th-seeded Hornets (14-9) weren’t shy about celebrating. They won’t hesitate to be rowdy again if they knock off No. 3 Hudson (17-5) on Saturday, either.
Dominating the defending district champion Bees (12-11) is the reason for their optimism.
“It’s crazy,” center Austin Adams said. “I don’t think we’ve been this hyped up all year.
“We’ve always wanted to play Medina because they’re right down the road — we play with them up at the (Medina Community Recreation Center) and stuff — and it was a great win. It feels awesome.”
Highland used a complete team effort out of its hybrid box-and-1 defense that featured junior Alex Wood hounding Northeast Ohio Conference leading scorer Billy Geschke to secure its first win over Medina in 28 seasons.
The 6-foot-3 Wood held Geschke (22.6 ppg coming in) to 11 points on 5-of-15 shooting — a .333 percentage heightened by the All-Ohioan scoring two layups with the outcome all but decided. Wood had plenty of help, though, as the Hornets initiated a double-team with 6-foot-5 Brogan Scott (game-high 24 points) whenever Geschke touched the ball in the half court.
While the Bees overcame plenty of special game plans against Geschke during the regular season, they had no answer for the Hornets’ so-called junk defense that was worth its weight in gold.
“(Geschke’s) a great player,” Wood said while still drenched in sweat. “I just wanted to make all of his catches (difficult), and my teammates helped me out greatly. We were able to contain him, but he’s still a great player.”
Also critical to Highland’s success was the play of Adams (6 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals) and power forward Brennan Scott (9, 7), as they held Medina’s second-leading scorer Branden Wilkins (11.6 ppg) to three points on 1-of-6 shooting after he got into early foul trouble.
With Geschke pressing to create offense, the Bees’ role players failed to produce. Medina scored just two points over the first 7:57, made just 3-of-18 first-half shots when backup center Nick Fryer’s 3-of-3 performance was factored out and didn’t score in the fourth quarter until backup Tyler King hit a 3-pointer with 3:24 left.
Adding to their misery, the Bees, who also shot 2-of-17 from 3-point range, picked up a technical foul after having six players on the court late in the first quarter.
“The game was never really close in my book,” coach Anthony Stacey said. “We never got any momentum and never got anything going.”
Remarkably, Highland was never seriously threatened after point guard Tanner Houska (9 points, 3 assists) took a steal to paydirt that made it 9-2 with 1:17 left in the first quarter.
Using a patient spread offense — they stalled for 3 minutes during the first quarter — the Hornets got good isolation looks for Adams and the Scott brothers and led 25-13 when Adams hit a turn-around 15-footer just before halftime.
That wasn’t to say Highland didn’t push the ball, though, as it consistently converted in transition after grabbing defensive rebounds.
“I don’t think they expected us to come out and run like we did,” Adams said. “Sometimes we tried to slow it down, too, and I think that definitely worked to our advantage.”
Just when Medina began to seize a little bit of momentum with a full-court trap late in the third quarter, Brogan Scott stepped up and made sure there was no comeback.
The sophomore small forward scored 18 of his team’s 27 second-half points, including making 7-of-8 free throws and grabbing five rebounds in the fourth quarter.
The All-Gazette selection made two free throws to give the Hornets their biggest lead (40-24) shortly after making an excuse-me layup by using every bit of his long right arm to bank the ball in hard off glass. Scott then saved his best for last and hauled in a football-style pass from Adams against good defense that eventually resulted in a layup.
The last score was the dagger that made up for Highland committing eight turnovers and missing six free throws in the fourth quarter.
Then again, 7-of-12 shooting in the second half more than made up for the shaky finish, too.
“The locker room was crazy,” Brogan Scott said. “Everybody was excited, and we can’t wait to play again.”
Highland’s last win over Medina was Nov. 24, 1984, when current assistant coach Jack Banks scored 10 points in a 59-47 decision.
Wood did not have a statistic until committing a turnover late in the third quarter. He finished with one point on 1-of-2 free throws to go with two rebounds.
The Scotts, Adams, Houska and Wood played every minute of the first, third and fourth quarters. Austin Casenhiser had three points, two rebounds and an assist in about 5 minutes, while backup big man Myles Houska added an assist in limited action. Jordan Frederick also played.
Medina sophomore Spencer Koch, a second-team All-Ohio golfer, scored his first varsity points on a put-back in the final minute. Koch, Tom Buchtinec and A.C. Schreiber made their varsity debuts.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.