MEDINA — Madi Tata provided the spark and made sure the barely smoldering fire remained lit.
The athletic, hard-working center refused to lose Saturday and powered Medina’s girls basketball team to an ugly 41-36 come-from-behind victory over Brunswick.
On a night in which the Bees (2-2, 2-0) shot 25 percent from the floor, missed 11 of their 12 3-point attempts and lost guard Casey Midlik to an apparent shoulder injury, Tata scored eight of the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division game’s final 14 points.
“At halftime, all three of our coaches gave us the business,” Tata said. “They basically yelled at us and said, ‘This is our home court. This is a conference game, and we can’t embarrass ourselves.’ That lit a fire in our butt and we played as hard as we could.”
Medina finished the game on 12-2 run. Tata (career-high 21 points, 10 rebounds) was in the middle of most of it by making 6-of-6 free throws, hitting a jumper to give the Bees the lead for good, blocking a potential go-ahead shot by Brunswick’s Monica Wasson and snaring a rebound off a missed free throw by teammate Holly Rhodes.
Center Liz Jones, the fifth player off the Medina bench, added three points, four rebounds and two blocks of Blue Devils star point guard Paige Salisbury (15 points) in the fourth quarter, while the Bees’ dogged man defense held Brunswick (1-4, 0-2) to 2-of-15 shooting.
“In the fourth quarter, the difference was our defense,” Tata said. “We were pressuring them the entire game, and I think we were finally getting some defensive pressure. I don’t think they could handle it.”
Medina trailed 34-31 with 5:45 left when Midlik went down after a scrum near midcourt. Jones put the Bees within one point on a putback and Tata gave them the lead shortly thereafter with the jumper just above the key.
It was all Medina from that point, but not without some hiccups.
The lead extended to 37-34 on Tata free throws, but Salisbury responded with a score. The Bees then made two turnovers and took two open yet ill-advised 3-pointers that went begging to give Brunswick a puncher’s chance.
Luckily for Medina, Tata got a stuff and Rhodes stripped the Blue Devils’ Farrah Benner before making her first free throw. Tata then grabbed an O-board on the second, saved a Rhodes inbounds pass dangerously close to the sideline and canned two more free throws in the final 20 seconds.
“(Trailing) got me mad, and it kind of gave me a spark,” Tata said. “I said, ‘I’ve gotta keep driving, I’ve gotta keep getting opportunities for my players to score. This is my time.”’
If not for Tata and Jones, Brunswick would have won going away after dominating defensively for 2½ quarters.
The Blue Devils frustrated the Bees with aggressive half-court defense early on. Brunswick’s patience offensively also resulted in good looks for Salisbury (9 first-half points), Olivia Gailey (7) and Benner (6), allowing the Blue Devils to build a 25-19 halftime lead.
All this did was fire up Medina in the locker room, as first-year coach Karen Kase wasn’t shy about pointing out the inconsistent effort. The Bees responded by holding Brunswick to 4-of-23 shooting in the second half.
“We’ve had the mindset to go out and beat Brunswick — like the boys (who won 63-35 on Friday) — all week,” Jones said. “At halftime, we had to get a spark under our butts to get going. We had to defend our home court.”
Delaney Cullen and Clover Kaple each had 10 points as Medina’s junior varsity won 43-20. Mikaela Kilbane had six for Brunswick.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.