NORTH ROYALTON — Start slow, finish slower and look in the mirror afterward.
There wasn’t much else to say Saturday after the Medina girls basketball team was rocked 60-38 by North Royalton in Northeast Ohio Conference River Division action.
The Bees (4-6, 3-1) fell a half-game behind the Bears (11-1, 3-0) in the division standings, but were more concerned with their lack of effort in their biggest game to date.
“We knew what we had to do — we always know what we have to do — but for some reason something needs to click,” center Liz Jones said. “We talk on the bus and we think we’re ready, but it takes Coach (Karen Kase) yelling at us. We need to drive ourselves to do something about it.”
Medina was held scoreless for the game’s first 7:53 and trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half before clawing to 25-21 early in the third quarter. North Royalton then answered just as quickly as the Bees made their run, going on a 17-3 splurge to commence garbage time.
Small forward Abby Miduri and shooting guard Julianne Lebo led the Bears with 16 points apiece, but they received plenty of help from center Rachel Flis (12 points, 8 rebounds, 5 blocks) and versatile pseudo power forward Alison Smolinski (8, 8, 4 assists).
Backup Jones was the only Medina player of substance with career highs of nine points and 12 rebounds.
“Coming off the bus I looked into their eyes and said, ‘We’re good today,”’ Kase said. “But, the first quarter kind of put us in a whole and we never recovered.”
The Bears dictated pace with a press that transitioned into trapping man or a 1-3-1 zone in the half court. North Royalton double-teamed the guard on every play Medina called out of its pick-and-roll-heavy offense and, as a result, kept the ball out of the hands of 15.9-point scorer Madi Tata (8 points, 3 rebounds).
The Bees missed eight field goal attempts and committed six turnovers before Jones got them on the board with 7 seconds left in the first quarter. Medina then calmed down and made its run in the third quarter behind Jones and a 3-pointer by Holly Rhodes, but coughed up the ball nine more times during North Royalton’s game-deciding stretch.
“A lot of people gave up, and I don’t know why,” Jones said. “We came so close and to lose it all, it’s not a good feeling.
“If it’s not motivating now, I don’t know what is because we have nothing to lose.”
The three-time defending division champion Bees are aware what cost them. They now must pick up the pieces as a big favorite Wednesday against Cleveland East Tech before playing another big division road game Saturday against Strongsville (6-3, 2-1).
The Bears played with intensity and Medina didn’t. End of story.
“The biggest lesson is that we’ve got to be more ready to play as a team on game day,” Kase said. “It’s hard to play on someone else’s court, it’s a huge game and (North Royalton) is having a great season, but by no means is it over. This is the first round of NOC games, and all of ours were on the road the first time around.
“We’re still hungry and we still have a goal, but this makes it harder. We need to make some adjustments the next time we play them and we need to find girls who are going to fight, going to be hungry and going to do what the coaches are telling them.”
Margaret Swiecicki had nine points as Medina’s junior varsity won 41-18.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.