July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Girls basketball: Grizzlies look sharp, roll on to Sweet 16

MEDINA — The foregone conclusion became reality in about, oh, 4½ minutes.

Behind its three-pronged attack of seniors Rachel Goddard, Taylore Robinson and McKenzie O’Brien, the top-seeded Wadsworth girls basketball team took control with a huge second quarter Saturday to defeat No. 4 Highland 91-47 for the Medina Division I District championship.

Wadsworth’s Rachel Goddard pushes the ball against Highland’s Jessica Peterlin. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY RON SCHWANE)

The Grizzlies (24-2), who won their fifth district title in eight attempts under coach Andrew Booth, have emerged victorious in their first four tournament games by an average score of 85-29.

They advance to face Elyria Catholic District champion Magnificat at North Royalton on Tuesday in a rematch of last year’s regional semifinals. The Blue Streaks struggled to hold off Elyria, which finished fifth in the six-team Northeast Ohio Conference River Division, before winning 51-39.

“We have the same mindset every game, regardless of our opponent,” Robinson said. “That’s to come out and play as hard as we can and take another step forward. Winning this district title is just another step to getting to what our goal is.”

After watching the bench players run out the clock in the fourth quarter, Wadsworth’s celebration consisted of little more than smiles, handshakes among the coaches, cutting down the nets and posing for pictures with the championship trophy.

No jumping around, no hugs and nothing extravagant. The Grizzlies, Hornets (17-9) and everyone else knew the outcome was never in doubt.

“We’re keeping our focus with each game,” Goddard said. “We know every team is going to want to beat us. We have to maintain our focus with early energy to get it started and then we get rolling from there.”

Reigning Gazette MVP and Miami (Oh.) recruit Goddard led the way with 16 points and six assists without committing a turnover. Center Robinson added a game-high 18 points to go with three assists and four steals, while shooting guard O’Brien compiled 17 points and three dimes.

The threesome scored 37 of Wadsworth’s first 43 points to forge a 26-point lead late in the first half of a game that also turned out to a be another showcase for versatile power forward Peyton Booth (8 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals).

“We knew they were going to come out and give us their best game,” Robinson said. “At the end of this game, somebody’s season was going to be over, so we knew going in that we had to stay hungry.”

Highland began with a bang and kept the feverish pace by making five of its first six shots. The score was tied at 11 until Wadsworth’s outstanding transition offense ended the frame on a 12-0 run.

That stretch was highlighted by Goddard making an acrobatic put-back while being fouled and later a coast-to-coast layup to beat the buzzer.

The Hornets, who received 12 points and seven rebounds from power forward Anna Rose Wiencek and eight fourth-quarter points from 12th man Haley Unaitis, completely collapsed at that point, as they committed eight turnovers before taking their third shot of the second quarter.

Highland had 20 of its 29 turnovers by halftime, at which it trailed 50-19. The Hornets also missed 11 of their final 12 first-half shots in their first district title appearance since 1993.

“Overall, this is the beginning of how we want to play within our program,” first-year coach Bernard Bolha said. “We want to get to what (Wadsworth) is doing. Wadsworth has done a wonderful job. They pressure the ball all year long against teams. That’s why they won.”

In Wadsworth’s quest for potential state-level rematches with nationally ranked Twinsburg and Kettering Fairmont — the teams that defeated the Grizzlies this season — its focus has been extremely impressive against inferior competition at the district level.

Those games are now in the past, and Wadsworth, which has won 11 straight, knows it as it enters this week a favorite to reach Columbus.

“In practice, we compete hard every day against each other,” Goddard said. “We’re working on things we can control, and I think we’ll be fine moving forward.”

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.

Albert Grindle About Albert Grindle

Albert Grindle is a sportswriter for the Gazette. He can be reached at 330-721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.