NORTH ROYALTON — The Wadsworth girls basketball team returns six of its nine players who saw action during last season’s regional semifinal win over Magnificat.
The Blue Streaks? Just post Bridget Pryatel.
The breakdown doesn’t get any more concrete as the Grizzlies (24-2) and Magnificat (18-7) will lock horns tonight in a Division I regional semifinal at North Royalton.
The winner advances to face Perrysburg (23-1) or Toledo Notre Dame (23-3) on Saturday at Norwalk High.
“Once the tournament draw shook out, their mentality is to take it one step at a time and focus more on not what or who the opponent is, but what we need to do to take a step forward every day,” Wadsworth coach Andrew Booth said of his players. “The leaders on the team have done a great job of that, for sure.”
Magnificat doesn’t belong to a league and competed against rugged schedule featuring Northeast Ohio powers Solon, Hathaway Brown, Hudson, North Canton Hoover and Walsh Jesuit. Coach Meghann Hubach’s squad lost to all of them, but each time by 13 or less points.
The Blue Streaks use four freshmen in their rotation, and two of them start. Their full-court pressure helped them advance out of a pedestrian Elyria Catholic District with wins over North Olmsted, Avon and Elyria by 40, 29 and 12 points.
“That’s not to say they’re not talented. They’re just inexperienced,” Booth said. “They can play 10 kids, and they have good basketball players. Magnificat has a strong tradition, and those kids waited their turn.”
While Magnificat is inexperienced — the lone senior is backup Madeline Comer — it showed impressive fortitude Saturday.
The Blue Streaks trailed Elyria 13-11, but eventually forged a seven-point lead. The advantage was almost blown, yet was extended to 12 before the Pioneers clawed back to 38-35 with 4:50 left. Magnificat then slammed the door by scoring 13 of the game’s final 17 points.
Leading the way was 5-foot-5 junior guard Sarah Scelza, a varsity rookie who scored 11 of her game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter three days after dropping 22 points on Avon.
Freshman guard Phoebe Sterba has been another name to watch with an 11.3 postseason scoring average. Junior guard Claire Martin was named third-team All-Northeast Lakes District on Monday after leading the team in scoring during the regular season, while junior guard Colleen McGervey and junior Pryatel were honorable mention.
“It doesn’t matter what age you are,” Hubach said after the Elyria game. “If you can get the job done, you’ll be out there on the floor.”
The Grizzlies’ road to regionals was much, much easier, as they won the weak Medina District by an average of 56 points per game. Wadsworth’s only common opponent with Magnificat is Hudson, which lost to the Grizzlies 58-33 but beat the Blue Streaks 59-48, though surefire All-Ohio forward Hannah Boesinger left the Wadsworth game early with a slight concussion.
During the postseason, Miami of Ohio recruit Rachel Goddard is averaging 15.3 points and 5.0 assists. Shooting guard McKenzie O’Brien is posting 16.0 points while shooting .656 from the floor (21-of-32), .895 from the free throw line (17-of-19) and .455 from 3-point range (5-of-11).
Meanwhile, posts Peyton Booth (6.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 4.0 apg) and Taylore Robinson (9.8 ppg) have also put forth big games as Wadsworth’s starters have yet to play important fourth-quarter minutes.
That’s likely to change tonight, and Andrew Booth knows they’ll be ready.
“They’re always looking for competitive situations,” he said. “The thing I like about how we’ve been playing the last month — and even before the Berlin Hiland game (a 61-37 win on Feb. 9) — is every game they’ve come ready to play and they play as hard as they can.
“Since that game, we’ve been on a pretty good apex. We’re definitely playing as well as we have all year, and it’s at the right time.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Wadsworth (24-2) vs. Magnificat (18-7)
WHAT: Division I regional semifinal
WHERE: North Royalton High School, 14713 Ridge Road
TIME: 7 p.m.
TICKETS: $8 ($6 presale at Wadsworth athletic department)
TV: Wadsworth Community Television (tape delay)