NORTH ROYALTON — Wadsworth certainly found a unique way to a win a Division I regional semifinal game Tuesday against Magnificat.
It wasn’t ideal and it certainly wasn’t girls basketball poetry, but style points are vastly overrated at this point of the season.
After shooting like a bricklaying machine in the first quarter, the Grizzlies held the Blue Streaks scoreless in the second on their way to a 46-27 victory, the second straight time they’ve eliminated Magnificat in the semis.
It will be another rematch Saturday in the championship at Norwalk, as Wadsworth (25-2) advances to face Toledo Notre Dame Academy (24-3), which beat Perrysburg 41-30. The Eagles ended the Grizzlies’ 2011-12 season with a 55-51 decision.
“We knew that Mags was going to come out strong,” shooting guard McKenzie O’Brien said. “They wanted this because we beat them last year (54-42) and they have some good players.
“We honestly just had to play good defense, and that was the key all this week at practice. We came out and executed and did exactly what we needed to do.”
The Grizzlies missed 15 of their first 16 shots, made just 1-of-16 3-pointers and finished the night shooting .281 from the floor (16-of-57).
They didn’t make a shot outside of 3 feet until center Taylore Robinson hit a 16-foot jumper early in the third quarter, and failed to connect on a 3-pointer until O’Brien drilled a dagger that made it 33-21 with 7:23 left.
How Wadsworth won came down to switch-everything man defense and transition offense, which was fueled by a healthy 38-23 rebounding advantage and 25 turnovers by the incredibly young Blue Streaks (18-8), who played four freshmen in their eight-player rotation and attempted just 30 shots.
O’Brien scored eight of her game-high 17 points during the all-important second quarter, which the Grizzlies won 14-0. Power forward Peyton Booth had eight points and 11 rebounds, point guard Rachel Goddard added eight points and backup guard Hannah Centea was a bulldog defensively.
“We didn’t shoot well all game at all,” Booth said. “It came down to our defense.
“We got a lot of transition points off steals, so we just try to work through the battles and keep going.”
Wadsworth struggled initially against Magnificat’s matchup 2-3, which also threw in some face-guarding of Miami of Ohio recruit Goddard. The Grizzlies missed their share of layups and 3-pointers, yet trailed just 10-6 after one period due to making 4-of-6 free throws and a layup by Centea that snapped a 3:20 stretch without a bucket.
Once the transition game took full effect, the ball began rolling downhill in a hurry.
O’Brien began the second quarter with four straight points to tie the score. Booth gave the Grizzlies the lead for good with a put-back, paving the way for Goddard and O’Brien to can layups.
Rebounding and steals were key in the spurt, which eventually reached 18-0 before Blue Streaks freshman Phoebe Sterba stopped the bleeding with two free throws with 6:31 left in the third quarter.
At that point, Magnificat trailed 24-12. It never got the deficit under seven points the rest of the night, as Wadsworth slammed the door with a 12-4 run to start the fourth.
“The thing we talked about before the game was you never know how bad you’re going to shoot the ball and you never know when the ball’s going to go in, but you can always play defense,” coach Andrew Booth said. “We said, ‘You don’t need to be the best defensive team in Ohio tonight, but you’ve got to be pretty doggone close.”’
Wadsworth is one win from tying its Medina County season record. The 1996-97 D-I state championship team finished 26-1.
Saturday’s regional title game appearance will be the Grizzlies’ third under Andrew Booth, tying him with former Wadsworth coach Todd Osborn for most in county lore.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.