AKRON — The Wadsworth boys basketball team opened its season Friday by beating Akron Firestone 64-55 and avenging last year’s loss in the first game in the school’s new gym.
What the Grizzlies (1-0) lack in a go-to player who can consistently create his own shot is compensated for by smart play, crisp passing and sound team defense. It was the latter that turned things around after a shaky start had Wadsworth behind 10-2.
Seeing his team needed a wake-up call, coach Mike Schmeltzer Jr. implemented a 1-2-2 press that shifted momentum. The adjustment initiated a 22-4 run that extended into the second quarter.
Firestone (0-1) clearly had not prepared for the pressure of such a trapping zone press and committed 10 of its 12 turnovers during the stretch.
“That gave us a boost and really changed up the tempo,” Schmeltzer said. “It allowed us to get into transition for some easy baskets and made it easier to get the ball into the post.”
Grizzlies big man Kyle Prunty was dominant in the paint. The 6-foot-6 senior scored a game-high 21 points while snagging eight rebounds in traffic.
Prunty was the recipient of two pinpoint passes from senior guard Anthony Palecek (6 points, game-high 6 assists) that led to easy buckets and a 24-14 Wadsworth lead that capped the run with 6:40 left in the first half.
“Kyle is pretty good, and we want to give him a lot of touches,” Schmeltzer said.
Wadsworth took a 39-28 lead into halftime after junior forward Joel Kipfer (9 points, 5 rebounds) followed a Grizzlies miss as the buzzer sounded.
The lead hovered around 10 points throughout the third quarter, which forced the Falcons to make a defensive adjustment of their own. Firestone extended its standard 2-3 half-court zone into the elevated trapping version that caused some turnovers and helped trim the score to 53-47 at 7:45 of the fourth quarter.
“We were not prepared for a trapping 2-3 zone in the first game of the season,” Schmeltzer said. “It’s a helter-skelter type of press. Overall I think our kids handled it pretty well.”
The Falcons couldn’t muster enough offense to go with the defensive switch, and the six-point margin was as close as they got.
Down the stretch, Wadsworth limited Firestone’s scoring opportunities with a patient ball-controlled offense that ate chunks off the clock. Palecek swished four consecutive foul shots to seal the deal.
“I’ll blame us coaches for not making adjustments tonight,” Firestone coach Dave Milo said. “Wadsworth really pressured us, but we can’t play scared. They’re a good team, but we didn’t show how good we really are.”
Senior guard Evan Kennerly led the Falcons with 20 points. No other player reached double figures. Promising 6-foot-5 sophomore Raybon Lewis (8 points) grabbed a game-high nine rebounds.
It’s only one win, but the Grizzlies, who got 15 points from Austin White, are excited about their chances this season.
“I love this year’s team,” Prunty said. “We bring back a lot of points from last season and we will definitely be a team to contend with in the Suburban League.”
|The Firestone junior varsity earned a 41-37 win. Cameron Deemer led Wadsworth with 12 points.|
Contact Kenneth Coleman at email@example.com.
Wadsworth 64, Firestone 55
WADSWORTH 17 22 14 11 — 64
FIRESTONE 14 14 15 3 — 55
Wadsworth — Austin White 6-0-15, Joel Kipfer 4-1-9, Kyle Prunty 8-5-21, Anthony Palecek 0-6-6, Barry Fernholz 1-3-5, Jimmy Elchlinger 1-2-4, Patrick Long 0-2-2, Nick Hewitt 1-0-2, Tyson Heideman 0-0-0, Ben Bingham 0-0-0, Joey Johnson 0-0-0. TOTALS: 21-19-64.
Firestone — Evan Kennerly 8-2-20, Jae’Quan Jones 4-1-9, Raybon Lewis 4-0-8, Miles Kirk 3-0-6, Kyrell Allen 2-0-5, Andre Simmons 0-4-4, Davoris Allen 1-0-3, Chase Papajcik 0-0-0, Warith Wahid 0-0-0. TOTALS: 22-7-55.
3-point goals — White 3, Kennerly 2, K. Allen, D. Allen. Rebounds — Firestone 24 (Lewis 9), Wadsworth 28 (Prunty 8). Assists — Firestone 10 (Jones 3), Wadsworth 11 (Palecek 6). Records — Firestone (0-1), Wadsworth (1-0). Junior varsity — Firestone 41, Wadsworth 37.